What Would Mike Davis (Or Any 4 Handicap) Shoot At Shinnecock?

I eavesdropped on Saturday setup and came away just astounded at the difficulty of Shinnecock Hills under tournament conditions. The difference in speed and firmness from a week ago is pretty profound, with more dryness and difficult days ahead.

So if you're wondering how you'd handle this monster of a course, you'll enjoy Eamon Lynch's premise of asking players what a 4.3 Index like USGA CEO Mike Davis would shoot on the course he's preparing with Jeff Hall

Davis's answer might be the best:

“90 plus,” he shot back with the good humor of a man who knows this course is designed to test the best, not the rest. “Assuming I did not run out of balls.”

 

High Winds Forecast: USGA Calls Audible On Thursday's Course Setup

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As I write for Golfweek.com, the USGA setup team has deviated from their original plans more than they can ever recall to accommodate potentially high winds during Thursday's 2018 U.S. Open first round.

Winds will be mostly out of the west, making some very long holes shorter, but also difficult to hold uphill second shots to greens like the 9th and 10th.

The Wednesday rains also should favor morning players who will get to the course before the afternoon bakes out Shinnecock Hills. Though the forecast suggests a good steady breeze all day. Peak gusts are expected around 2-3 pm.

We discussed on Live From The U.S. Open today.

Narrowing: The Story Behind Shinnecock's September 2017 Adjustment

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Check out Guy Yocom's Golf Digest feature on how we are arriving at Shinnecock Hills with a restored golf course, narrowed in response to Erin Hills and the importance for the USGA to get this right.

The piece in print or online is accompanied by some incredible Dom Furore images and some very rich details on the evolution of Shinnecock since 2004 when it last hosted the U.S. Open. 

Most fascinating to learn was Ray Floyd's role in suggesting the course was too wide after watching the proceedings at Erin HIls.

"I said, 'Mike, we need to have a chat,' " recalls Floyd, at age 75 retired but still an influential voice."I asked him, 'Were you happy with the [fairway widths] at Erin Hills? I don't think you were.' Mike told me he absolutely was not. I said, 'Well, it's going to be on steroids at Shinnecock, because it doesn't move and flow as much. You've got it dead wide, and we've had three really good U.S. Opens here with it tight and narrow.' "

The alert from Floyd, combined with conversations Davis had with smart people in golf, must have set off internal alarms. His reaction, expressed in action more than words, was almost immediate. Within weeks, the USGA undertook dramatic alterations to Shinnecock Hills.

Of course historians will recall that the last time Shinnecock hosted, the USGA was coming off a record-scoring U.S. Open. Let's hope the re-narrowing is as far as things go. As Yocum details in a number of way, it does seem very unlikely the course will ever be allowed to spill over the top this time.

Rory: USGA Overthinks Course Setup

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I can't say I agree with Rory McIlroy's assessment of recent U.S. Open course setups, but as Dan Kilbridge notes for Golfweek, the 2011 champion chimed in following a strong third round at Muirfield Village.

“I think the USGA thinks that we’re better than we actually are, if that makes sense,” McIlroy said. “I think they overthink it. I think that, and I don’t want to single out (USGA Executive Director) Mike Davis here, I think it’s a collective thought process. We were talking about this yesterday. They sort of, I don’t think it should be as much of an exact science to set up golf courses as it is. I mean, get the fairways sort of firm, grow the rough, put the pins in some tough locations, but fair, and let us go play.”

Ah if it were only that simple!

I certainly understand the player reaction to the Davis era of more variety and different questions being asked. Most have made the golf better to play and watch, with a few hiccups. 

But it's most intriguing to read McIlroy's example of overthinking setup, which may be a case of him overthinking just how much the USGA controls Mother Nature.

“It’s been a very reactionary few years to what happened at Chambers Bay,” McIlroy said. “I think they felt Chambers Bay was – Erin Hills was going to be similar to Chambers Bay. So they soaked it and made it really wide and all of a sudden 16 under par wins again and they’re like, um, what just happened? So I think they have to take previous results out of their head and just say, ‘Okay, let’s set up this golf course as best we can and just let the guys go play.'”

Video: Shinnecock Hills Second Hole Flyover

At 252 yards for this year's U.S. Open, this uphill, typically downwind long par-3 is one of the more subtly artful and not-so-subtly difficult one-shotters around.

In 1986, P.J. Boatwright noted the small approach added to players land the ball short of the green, 226 yards away: 

A very strong a par-3, uphill to a green that is appropriately large. Normally, we isolate greens on par-3 holes with rough. In this case, because the hole is so long, we left a strip of fairway in front of the green so that players can bounce the ball onto the green. This is only fair because the hole is likely to play downwind.

The aerial showing the entire fairway drenched in rough!  Fairway was installed by 1995:

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The flyover today:

USGA On 2004 At Shinnecock: "What basically happened then was a lack of water.”

 Lush rough at Shinnecock Hills less than a month from the U.S. Open.

Lush rough at Shinnecock Hills less than a month from the U.S. Open.

David Dusek reports from U.S. Open media day at Shinnecock Hills and the USGA made the first effort to put behind them the course setup boondoggle from the last Open.

Somewhere Tom Meeks and Walter Driver aren't liking these comments from current Executive Director Mike Davis, but the truth can be painful:

“It’s been 14 years, and it’s a different time, with different people,” Davis said. “When you set up a U.S. Open, it is golf’s ultimate test and is probably set up closer to the edge than any other event in golf. The difference between then and now is that we have a lot more technology and a lot more data. And frankly, what basically happened then was a lack of water.”

 

This probably won't bring great comfort to Phil Mickelson, who lost by two with a double at the virtually unplayable 7th hole.

“Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

Bifurcation: The Post-Erin Hills Narrowing And Resodding Of Shinnecock Hills For The U.S. Open

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Newsday's Mark Herrmann has the definitive account of Shinnecock Hills' last-minute narrowing. 

Given USGA CEO Mike Davis's public concerns about the role distance plays in being able to present courses as the architects intended, the admission that last fall's narrowing of this year's U.S. Open course at least does not come with any aggravating spin. This was a reaction to Erin Hills, where the freedom to hit driver lead to incredible driving distances and low scoring. 

Still, the expense to keep Shinnecock Hills relevant speaks to a very different version of the game.

“They did it almost overnight,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA. “As someone at the club said, it was like a military exercise. When all is said and done, it looks tremendous. It fits your eye because these are the appropriate grasses.”

 

Herrmann notes that landing areas will still "be wider than they were for the previous three Opens in the modern era — in 1986, 1995 and 2004 — but slimmer than they had been after the club’s recent restoration project."

Three contractors were employed and the fairway grass taken out is resting comfortably at a New Jersey sod farm should the Shinnecock Hills members want it back.

“Some of the fairways had gone to 60 yards wide. It was great fun to play,” Davis said, adding that the average width had been 26 yards in 2004. “What we’ve done is come back and say, ‘You know what? You’re going to have to tighten it up some because accuracy is part of the test.’ ”

 

As absurd as all of this is to theoretically protect "accuracy", the real issue remains huge distance gains passing by the governing bodies. If the professional game were in balance, the width could be tolerated thanks to the green complexes serving as the defense. Angles would matter. A form of accuracy would be rewarded. Just not this year at Shinnecock. Again.

More Changes To Quail Hollow, With A Lemonade Twist

Preparing to host the Wells Fargo Championship, last year's PGA Championship host underwent yet more design modifications on top of modifications made to the previous modifications. 

The good news: Quail Hollow's green speeds and rough are more subdued this week thanks to a ryegrass overseed and elimination of some teeing grounds from consideration.

The one tee someone said was better suited to a lemonade stand is not available according to club chairman/host/lead tinkerer/comedian Johnny Harris. From Rex Hoggard's GolfChannel.com report:

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked in the video of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

True to his word, on Tuesday as players made their way around the course to prepare for this week’s event, there was an actual lemonade stand perched on the back of the fourth tee box.

George Savaricas reports for Golf Central on player reaction.

Ko's 3-Wood Reminds Us What Shotmaking Can Be Like When The Professional Game Has Symmetry

If you haven't seen the shot, do check out Lydia Ko's 3-wood from Lake Merced and the 2018 MEDIHEAL Championship.

In her Golfweek account, Beth Ann Nichols called it "one of the most clutch 3-woods in LPGA history, negotiating a tree down the left side of the closing par 5 and nestling it in close for eagle. For a moment, an albatross was in the picture."

I want to highlight the shot for a host of reasons beyond the simple pleasure of watching someone with supernatural talents deliver so decisively under pressure. 

Some are wondering why the LPGA held more appeal in recent weeks and shots like Ko's bear greater study in the context of the distance and skill debate.

Consider...

--The 18th hole for this particular event will never be confused with Augusta National's 13th, yet there was enough strategic interest to create intrigue: drive down the right side and get a better view of the green, drive left and perhaps shorten the approach, but also lose the better angle.

--In the playoff, Minjee Lee outdrove Ko by 30 yards, but as Golf Channel's Karen Stupples noted almost immediately, Ko would have the better angle due to an overhanging cypress tree and the shape of the alleyway approach. Check out this screen grab of Ko's angle, with Lee's ball down the left, just above Ko's waistline:

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--Since LPGA driving distances are of sane proportions for a majority of the golf courses on earth, even very simple architectural elements provided options, risks and nuanced reward in positioning. The execution by Ko was ultimately masterful, but she was given a canvas thanks to the firm ground conditions, immaculate turf and LMCC design to execute something special.

--Watching the way Ko's ball hit the ground and release toward the hole only added to the drama and beauty of the shot. If this were a 6-iron, as we see all too often hit into a par-5 by today's male players, the shot loses appeal. It's not something we talk about nor is it a shot that leaves us in awe of the players. Or, in modern parlance, we don't feel like we're living under par.

--The game is far more interesting to watch and play when angles have meaning and the ground can be used. Even a novice golf watcher can get a thrill from a shot like Ko's and appreciate that they saw something few humans could accomplish. 

--When the game is compelling because of the aforementioned elements, more people will tune in on those merits over, say, watching forty-year-olds playing air guitar to music that hasn't been relevant in decades, if ever.

Chamblee Laments Alister MacKenzie's Design Influence On Golf, Death Of "Ribbon Fairways"

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Irony isn't his thing, otherwise Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee might even find it funny that he's dusting off his sticks for a competitive comeback with the hope of playing the Old Course during this year's Senior Open Championship (John Strege reports). 

Yet the same analyst who so eloquently lamented the disappearance of Alister MacKenzie design features at Augusta National just seven years ago, who advocated bifurcation regularly not long ago in hopes of allowing for classic designs to matter, now blames Alister MacKenzie's design philosophy for a range of things, including potentially "damaging" the modern professional game.

In quite the contradictory column, Chamblee says elite players would return to smaller driver heads and spinning balls to shape the balls into...ribbon like fairways lined with thick rough. Except MacKenzie--supported by rogues like Bobby Jones and Ben Crenshaw--had the audacity to channel the Old Course and spread that who whole fun/width/strategy message.

Players, professional and amateur, loved the forgiving nature of his designs, and budding architects wanting to imitate MacKenzie’s work, adopted philosophies along similar lines. To this day when having a debate with a group of Tour players or golf course architect nerds, the consensus will be to have little or graduated rough off of the tee, “to allow for the recovery” many will say, followed by “to give the greatest pleasure to the greatest number.”

I've never actually heard a tour player recite the greatest pleasure line and can confidently say that there are three active players on the PGA Tour who've actually read those words in print. (That would be the law firm of Ogilvy, Herman and Blair).

Because golf course setups have become far more forgiving – owing to the MacKenzie philosophy, complaints and suggestions of the players and to the social media chorus that we want more birdies ­– players seek to launch shots as high as they can, with as little spin as they can, with as long of a driver as they can handle.

Wait, so the players try to make birdies to please social media, not because it helps lower their scores? Kinky!

Distance has become a means to an end so much, that many are crying for a roll back of the ball when all that needs to happen is to roll back to an era when one man had the guts and the acuity to not listen to the players, or the pervading philosophy of fairness.

Imagine if the U.S. Open and other events returned to this demanding philosophy. Players out of necessity would choose balls that spin more, heads that were smaller so they could shape shots, shots that would start lower for more control and golf swings would evolve to find the balance of distance and accuracy. In time an athlete would come along who could solve the puzzle of how to hit the ball far and straight. 

Yes, they never practice how to hit it straighter these days, these kids. 

It is amazing how quickly some forget the bomb and gouge era of the early 21st century when rough and narrowness was employed to offset a distance explosion. That was back when Brandel was pro-MacKenzie and pro-bifurcation. 

Oakmont: The Shrinking Of Short Grass

Ryan Farrow did an aerial overlay of the famed Oakmont Country Club from 1938 vs. 2017 and found that more bunkers have been added while there has been a huge drop in fairway acreage and width.

The club's tree removal program undoubtedly impacts the turf shift to rough, but that's not the entire story. Something else has happened in that time. Oh, right, the top players are hitting it about 80 yards longer.

Considering The Chances Of Another Major At Chambers Bay

For anyone hosting a major or thinking of doing so, Tony Dear's Links piece is worth a read given the high-profile Chambers Bay experiment.

As the story notes, it succeeded on the financial and ratings front, but agronomically left a scar that is now being rectified by a creative conversion to poa greens.

Since June 2015, Johnson has increased cultural inputs (mowing, rolling, fertilizer, pesticide, water) to favor annual bluegrass establishment, and is seeding the greens with the only commercially available annual bluegrass turf—Poa reptans Two-Putt. “The good news,” he says, “is that it establishes pretty well. The bad news is that its prolific seedhead production in the first year or so gives the greens that blotchy appearance.”

Johnson has also begun saving and analyzing clipping yields from the greens in an effort to monitor growth and make better decisions on when to cut, seed, fertilize, and irrigate. “Every-day play is our focus as a public course,” he says. “I want smooth greens as well as consistent speed and firmness.”

On the financial side, Chambers continued the trend of public-access venues raking in more money for the USGA (we won't know how Erin Hills fared for a while):

According to its Annual Report, USGA revenue from its Open championships (U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Women’s Open) in 2016, when the U.S. Open was played at Oakmont, was $53.3m. In 2015, it was $64.3m. 

The irony in all of this is that Chambers would make a great PGA Championship venue...in August. May? Not so much. Though still certainly doable and capable of bringing big energy and bigger West Coast ratings.

Ferguson: "Crowd atmosphere can't be overlooked as key factor at majors"

AP's Doug Ferguson does a nice job pointing out the atmospheric differences between Erin Hills and TPC River Highlands, something fans noticed. He agrees with our assessment that getting fans closer to the action makes a difference and should be a vital element to course setup.

He writes:

A big atmosphere comes from energized, enthusiastic fans. And those fans get their energy from being close to the action, feeding off the noise around them. That starts with being able to see golf without having to squint their eyes.

The lack of major atmosphere was evident at Erin Hills.

It was even worse at Chambers Bay, the public course built out of a sand and gravel pit next to the Puget Sound. On one hole, fans were perched high on a ridge and looked like a row of figurines from down below. The par-5 eighth hole at Chambers Bay didn't have any fans at all.

That's the biggest risk the USGA is taking by going to big, new courses.

The U.S. Open returns to traditional courses with a smaller blueprint over the next decade. Even after a soft, calm year, it should not lose its reputation as the toughest test in golf.

U.S. Open Friday Setup: 675 Yard 18th, 2-3 Percent Hole Locations

Brad Klein of Golfweek.com fills in some details on Friday's U.S. Open setup that are eye-opening for those interested in the art and science of course preparation.

As always I hope you'll hit the link and read the entire piece. But a few highlights...

Green speeds started out at 12.5 to 13 on the Stimpmeter and lost 6-7 inches of speed during the day. Friday, they’re half-a-foot faster, roughly 12.8-13.5 before they lose some speed.

This one will probably get a few players and caddies riled up:

PGA Tour specifications virtually mandate that the hole not be cut on a slope of more than 1.5 degrees. Sorry for the technical stuff here, but it’s all a matter of physics and topography. The USGA doesn’t shy away from setting the hole on slopes of 2-3 percent.

That might explain the number of balls that took some pretty strong turns right around the hole during round one.

And, in the ball-doesn't-travel-too-far files, this about the par-5 18th.

Friday, it’s been stretched to 675 yards, which means players, even downwind, probably won’t be able to fly it over the fairway bunkers on the right as they did Thursday and reach the downhill kick point on the hole, achieving an average of 318 yards off the tee.

On a positive note, the conservative setup approach light on risk-reward has allowed pace of play to actually be better than in recent years (5:16 average in round one). The slower green speeds surely have something to do with that, too.

Fescue, Schmescue: Now About The Other Dangers At Erin Hills

Yes it's strange and maybe a little embarrassing that the USGA didn't notice pre-tournament that this really lush native grass just outside the roughs was total overkill, and even more bizarre that they had to have crews descend upon the crime scenes so aggressively.

But Bradley Klein, who was out early with the crew Wednesday as they cut down more roughs on the 18th hole, writes for Golfweek.com that this all started a week ago, so perhaps we can chalk all of this up to just seeing how the course plays and adjusting accordingly.

Actually, the cutbacks of fescue started more than a week ago, before the players arrived en masse, before the bellyaching from some golfers. The USGA and the Erin Hills maintenance crew have been pulling back some of the denser, taller fescue to uncover bunkers that had gotten overgrown, opening up more lines of visibility. On the 338-yard, par-4 second, crews removed the tallest fescue from the back of a massive fairway carry bunker. The move created more options for players to try the 280-yard carry and benefit from the downhill slope behind – without the risk of losing a ball that made it over.

USGA championship agronomist Darin Bevard explained it as he drove by. “We’re doing it for playability, visibility and aesthetics. Not to make the course easier, just to make it the way we wanted it to play before the fescues got so high.”

Rex Hoggard writes at GolfChannel.com that much of the fuss involves deep-seeded tensions between players and USGA.

The USGA has become the game’s most polarizing organization. Some questioned Tuesday’s nip/tuck as more than simply a “prescribed plan based on weather,” as the association’s spokesman explained. They contend the “trimming” was an attempt to quiet the crowd at an event that desperately needs to avoid another major miscue.

Whether that’s the case really didn’t matter. Not on Tuesday as news of the cutting was met with a mixture of eye rolls and raised eyebrows. It’s not that players didn’t believe the official statement, but they’ve become conditioned to think the worse when it comes to the USGA.

In buried lede news, Brentley Romine notes at Golfweek.com, the bunkers may be the real danger at Erin Hills. I've already seen some bizarro stances, lies and situations in very basic practice round situations. When the gates open, expect more madness.

And speaking of that, I've written a guide for the sadists, lookie loos and others who want to know what holes to watch for the crueler antics. If things are at all firm, we'll be talking about these greens on Sunday night instead of fescues.

Kevin Na's Rant & The Lush Native Swath Of Erin Hills Rough

I can't fault Kevin Na entirely for his rant about the Erin Hills natives. The fescue grasses are beautifully managed throughout a property that is pretty stunningly maintained. The grasses are sparse where they'd naturally be thin and more dense where water collects.

So to see the native grasses clearly receiving fairway irrigation overspray is not generally a shocker. We see it all too often on prairie courses. But the decision not to manage (trim) these crucial areas just off the primary cut is a risky one given how severe they are (to the point of the natives leaning over). A herd of goats or some refined thinning practices could have alienated what will be a potential lost ball issue.

That said, Na's suggestion that players should be handling setup is a frightening one!

Here is what he posted on Instagram:

Here are some photos I Tweeted yesterday:

And a video that may require hitting the link as Twitter video embeds are acting strange.

Only Nine Players Hit Muirfield's 16th On Sunday

The weather was feisty but the quality of the leaderboard made it a bit eye-opening that only nine players hit Muirfield Village's 16 green Sunday. Gary McCord hit the point as deftly as he could with the architect of the revamped hole hosting the event.

TTo have only nine players in the final round of the Memorial keep their tee shots on the putting surface was one thing, but to have so many miss so consistently will be of even greater concern when the tour staff reviews the ShotLink numbers. The 2017 leaderboard was stacked with some pretty big names, and while we'd love to chalk this freaskishly low number to just the wind, the architecture deserves more scrutiny. A combination of the hole's odd angle, yardage and green complex remains problematic, at best. And new green firmness can no longer be blamed.

Here are the greens in regulation numbers from Thursday to Sunday: 44, 40, 47 and 9. One birdie Sunday.

The scatter charts are pretty wacky:

Artificial Surface Tee Gets Used At NCAA Championships...

The NCAA's plan to play men's and women's Division I finals at the same course is undoubtedly making their venue option list very short. And as Andy Johnson notes at FriedEgg.co, you can't fault them for going to a place like Rich Harvest Farms, which has generously opened its doors to Solheim Cups, Western Amateurs and more. But the course that was once ridiculously ranked by Golf Digest's panel only to suffer a fall, still has many wondering why Jerry Rich's design is even viewed as top 100 worthy. 

Things aren't off to the best start at Rich Harvest Farms, with a weather delay leading to a shortened event and an artificial surface tee box getting put into play.

Saturday's nasty weather wasn't Rich's fault, especially since superintendent Jeff VerCautren did all he could to have the course ready to take on an inch of rain (as it did for Saturday's women's D1 round two). Play was still cancelled despite beautiful afternoon conditions. Lance Ringler at Golfweek.com explains what went into the thinking behind cancelling the round and shortening the women's stroke play portion of the proceedings.

More disconcerting though was the Janet Lindsay's decision, forced by wind forecasts, to use an artificial surface tee that was difficult for players to actually penetrate with tees.

Brentley Romine reports for Golfweek.com.

“I thought to myself, some kids probably have never hit off a mat in their whole life,” said Ohio State head coach Therese Hession.

The mat made it difficult for players to put their own tees at proper heights. Some players used mini tees provided by officials, but even those weren’t suitable for everyone. One player grew tired of attempting, threw her tee on the ground and hit hybrid off the deck. Most every player hit some sort of hybrid on the hole on Friday.

“I hit a hybrid off the tee, and the tee wouldn’t go down,” Baylor’s Amy Lee said. “… I was kind of afraid of popping it up in the air. (The tee) was probably triple the height of what I normally put it.”

Scott, Mickelson And Spieth's Insights On Augusta National

The Masters press conferences always seem to make players up their game in architectural and course setup assessments.

Three favorites from today's 2017 pre-tournament pressers, starting with Adam Scott on how he gets reacquainted with the course.

ADAM SCOTT:  Yeah, the couple things that really come to mind as I think about that quickly is the severity of the slope on the fairway and standing on uneven lies.  Sunday here, my second shot into 2, I had a perfect tee shot and I had a 3‑iron into the green, and as I walked into the bowl, I was shocked at how severe the downslope was and had to back off and completely readjust to how I was going to hit the shot.  It's very severe, even though it doesn't look it, because there's so much slope everywhere else, I think you can sometimes be fooled.  That's one of the big things.

    The other thing for me is when I look at my aim points off tees, I think of 10 especially, there's been a branch up in the top of a tree that I look at every year to get that line.  That's an important tee shot to kind of have to move one, and so I just check that that same branch is there and if it's not, I don't know what I'll do.  But it was there again this year, a little U‑shape up in the top of the trees there through the fairway.

    Those kind of eye lines and comfort things that have obviously been in the last five or six years really comfortable for me here, I check those.  I've felt very comfortable getting back on the greens this year, probably more so than ever.  I feel like now I'm really getting a good understanding of the fall lines and the few little nuances they have here, because obviously they are very tricky at times.  So I feel very comfortable with that.

    And they are the kind of things ‑‑ but my level of comfort here the last five years has grown so much, and now it's far less daunting coming here than in the past.

    Q.  And 13th tee shot?

    ADAM SCOTT:  It's really condition‑dependent.  If there's a little help, I like to hit the driver and aim it at the kind of corner of the trees through the fairway, and if it draws, then it's perfect.  And if it doesn't, it's 50/50 it might get a bounce to the left in the grass and it might go in the pine straw.  But I think if there's a bit of help, I can hit it long enough.  I know I can carry the corner of the trees, not the highest point like Dustin Johnson hits it over, but I can get across the corner and it's worth trying to get a 7‑ or an 8‑iron in on a helping wind.  And if it's not helping, I'm very comfortable just hitting a 3‑wood pretty straight.  It's now 200‑maybe‑yard run‑out up there, if you just hit a nice 3‑wood, it shouldn't run out.  So it's not a real priority for me to turn it around the corner.

Phil Mickelson on the delicate art of lengthening and how a golf course should properly ebb-and-flow.

Q.  You've designed some great golf courses like Whisper Rock, and now that the Club has room to move the tee back on No. 5, No. 2 and possibly No. 13 one day, would you be in favor of that?

    PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, longer is longer.  Longer isn't always better.  Sometimes it is; sometimes it isn't.  I think that you want to make the hard holes harder, but you don't want to make the ‑‑ you want to actually make the easier holes easier.

    So when you start looking at the birdie holes, which are the par 5s, the last thing you really want to do is continue to lengthen them to where they are not reachable and they become just a wedge game for everybody.  Loses a lot of excitement and it loses a lot of greatness.

    But to move a hole back like No. 5 or No. 11 that are designed to be the tougher holes out there and sandwiched in the middle of a round in between birdie holes, like 2 and 3, I don't think ‑‑ I think that's a good thing.  So you want to make the hard holes harder, but you've got to be strategic on what holes those are.
    I think when you make an easy hole, like 7, one of the toughest pars on the golf course, it changes the entire dynamic of how the golf course plays.

And Jordan Spieth with general thoughts on why excites him about the place.

Q.  I'm just curious, what is it about Augusta, Jordan, that appeals to you, that suits your eye and that allows you to elevate your game in such a way?

    JORDAN SPIETH:  Well, I like the golf course specifically.  I like the elevation changes, the sidehill lies, the pull to Rae's Creek, the way it affects putts.  It's imaginative golf.  It's feel golf and I really enjoy that; when I can go away from technicality and towards feel, it's an advantage for me personally, compared to how I play other places.

    I really love the tournament.  It's pure golf.  When we get to the driving range, it's just us.  It's myself, my caddie, my coach.  No offense; there's nobody else on the range, and that's actually kind of nice for a change to be able to feel like you're not pulled in any direction.  You can just get out there and get done what you want to get done.

    And then obviously, just the feel, the crowds, leading into the tournament is second to none.  I really like that and am able to feed off that.  Rounds like today, just played the back nine, and just had a great time out there.  It was just a lot of fun.  You don't come away from a lot of Tuesdays saying that.  It was just a neat experience in itself.