“Those trees were not there. He could not make the shot today."

Larry Dorman probably hasn't helped the healing process between ANGC and the New York Times with this assessment of the course changes and their impact on play.

There can be no doubt that the 1-inch fuzz on the face of Augusta has reduced the ability of long hitters to bomb drives into spots on the edges of holes that used to set up better angles into greens. The freedom that came from not worrying about the penalty the second cut exacted — reducing the spin on iron shots, thus reducing control — is gone.

I wonder if the club understands how important that sense of freedom was in making the players more aggressive and therefore, more likely to play freely? (And with that comes not only better play, but also big numbers when they get greedy.)

And the addition of trees to the left of the 17th hole has taken away the opening that led to the greatest charge in the past 25 years at Augusta. It has cut off the opening Nicklaus found during the final round in 1986, when he punched his ball onto the green and made the final birdie in his closing 65 to win his sixth and final green jacket.

Visiting the spot last Wednesday from which his father had made his great escape, Jack Nicklaus II pointed to some new pines and said: “Those trees were not there. He could not make the shot today. There’s no way.”

Come on, a Tom Kite win that year would have been just as memorable! 

Second Masters Question: What's The State Of The Masters "Brand"

masterslogo.gifI heard from a few folks today and all were bemoaning another less-than-fulfilling Masters. The callers ranged from a golf course superintendent to a guy manning a phone bank in Canada who had to tell me how dull it was after I revealed I was a golf writer.

However, the most surprising was a Southerner who has attended many Masters and respects Billy Payne.

This avid golfer excitedly attended Thursday for the first time in a few years. He and his buds arrived at noon and said they got bored and gone by 4 o'clock.

His main gripe was that a certain tension and sense of looming possibilities was gone. The sound of excitement has disappeared and the atmosphere altered beyond recognition. I asked why people were leaving in droves in the late afternoon (at least to us TV viewers), even with so many great names still on the course.

Boredom, was his reply. And then he said the words that you know make me wince for a number of reasons: "The Masters brand has been tainted."

Now you know how I feel about branding, and we can argue about the course changes.

So leave your architectural views behind for a moment, consider the last few Masters and what your friends are saying and tell us, has the "brand" has been tainted?

"There's more scoring in soccer."

img10779302.jpgSteve Elling joins the chorus calling for Augusta National to turn back the clock. Several fine points:

It's irrelevant what the television ratings will say, because history has proven people will watch the Masters no matter the conditions or leaderboard. But has there ever been a more dreadful two-year period in modern history with regard to excitement and goosebumps?

Short answer: No.


We watch the Masters for birdies and crazy rallies, like those managed over the past quarter-century by Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson. Masters memories were not intended to be nightmarish, even for the winner.

And this quote, which I didn't see anywhere else from the former USGA President:

 "We've got them all in the honey holes," said Fred Ridley, chief of the ANGC competition committee, shortly before the leaders teed off Sunday.

Yeah, but the course itself was still a bear. Ridley, it has been sarcastically noted elsewhere, was once the president of the USGA, where extreme course set-ups that cross the line have become the stuff of legend over the years. But in fairness, the changes to Augusta pre-date Ridley's arrival.

But let's never forget just how closely tied the USGA and Augusta National have been in recent years. If it weren't Ridley, it'd be someone else protecting par.

As a final plea to the club for a return to moderation, consider the performance of arguably the greatest player in the history of the game over his past three-plus seasons at Augusta. Over his most recent 13 rounds, Woods has posted exactly one round in the 60s and broken par a total of five times.

Funny that the club has initiated a program last week to allow kids into the tournament for free. Had I watched Sunday's play as a teenager, I would have bought a soccer ball the very next day.

After all, there's more scoring in soccer.

Could Billy Payne's global initiative actually be opening the door for unprecedented criticism of the course? We'll see... 

First Masters Question: Did The Weather Really Deprive Us Of Excitement?

I thought CBS's Peter Kostis offered excellent commentary from his outpost on No. 13 and ably handled the awkward situation of having his prized pupil in contention (and then having to interview him...).

However, I'm curious what everyone thinks of this golf.com column remark:

For the second year in a row, the weather denied us a back-nine shootout, something we haven't seen since Tiger's win in 2005 over Chris DiMarco. The wind on Sunday forced players to be defensive or risk making big numbers. If the conditions had stayed as soft as they were Saturday, there would have been a lot more roars.

I'm wondering if the wind was really the reason we didn't get a shootout.

The ebb and flow of the week felt more to me like a U.S. Open, where the course has beaten the players down to a point where by Sunday they were so used to being on the defensive that even had weather cooperated,  sharp, aggressive play would have been scarce.

Also, isn't there something amiss when, despite being set up in such a forgiving a way (all tees forward, reasonable hole locations), it is still so unyielding in some wind?

"The only glimpse of nerves came on the 17th"

In writing about Trevor Immelman's win, the New York Times' William Rhoden says:

The only glimpse of nerves came on the 17th, where his tee shot landed in the bunker. Immelman clasped his hands behind his head and grimaced.

Now, as I recall it, Immelman hit it in the water on the previous hole. And on 17, that would have been his second shot that landed in the bunker, as there are no fairway bunkers. Other than that, it was a great observation. 

"His aura is also propagated by the American media, for whom the word sycophantic barely scratches the surface."

Martin Johnson on Tiger's relationship with the U.S. media...tough, but funny!
His aura is also propagated by the American media, for whom the word sycophantic barely scratches the surface. When a fellow golfer (Phil Mickelson, Rory Sabbatini, Fuzzy Zoeller, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia) says something Woods doesn't much care for, they are all sentenced to a spell of 'purdah' on the back of Woods' intolerance of any kind of inference that he might be mortal.

He is never criticised for this by the American press, some of whom are handpicked for having their own egos massaged by the man himself. Those reporters who are onside with Woods are rewarded by being addressed by name at a press conference. To those that are not, he finds a way of conveying that the question is being asked by someone a couple of clubs short of a full set.

"Mr. Payne is a wonderful gentleman; he sees that, he's listening, he knows."

Anthony Cotton writes about the quiet at Augusta National, and quotes Mark O'Meara extensively:

"It's definitely different," said Mark O'Meara, the 1998 Masters champ.

"If you hear Tiger Woods say that, the No. 1 player in the world and one of the most powerful players in the world, then, yeah, something's changed.

"People want to hear roars. That's what I think is so great about the (British) Open Championship. They really don't mess with the course that much. The weather and conditions dictate what the scoring's going to be like."

"I'm 51 now and I've had my day in the sun, but I'd rather see it to where some of the holes like 7, and a couple of others, where maybe they back off a little bit. Where you can see a guy post a 31 on Sunday, or make a couple of eagles and birdies," O'Meara said. "I think Mr. Payne is a wonderful gentleman; he sees that, he's listening, he knows."

I interviewed O'Meara recently for Golf World and he really made the point about how much less the course is "running." Boy was that evident this week.

"I wouldn't be surprised if in the future they back off on some of the length and try to make it a little bit faster.

"Speed the course up and it's always going to play tougher — even if it's short, it doesn't matter. If it's firm and fast, I don't care what the length is, it's going to play difficult. I don't think it's going to be back to where it was when I won in '98, but I do think they're going to make the players think a little bit more."

2008 Final Round Thoughts

masterslogo.gifWell, we have a class act winner who finished it off beautifully even with one final knuckleball thrown his way on 18.

Most of you regular readers know what I think at this point about the changed golf course dynamics impacting the way the field plays, the time it takes and the hushed atmosphere in general.

We'll hash through that later on, but I'm curious mostly what your thoughts are of the week, Trevor Immelman, Tiger, Phil, the coverage, etc...

2008 Masters Sunday Live Blog

masterslogo.gifWe kick it off with another awesome re-broadcast, this time of Gary Player's 1978 win. So great to hear Jack Whitaker and Vin Scully. Though I really only paid slight attention because Bobby Clampett was telling us on Amen Corner Live that Bubba Watson is a former U.S. Amateur Public Champ (2000 for those of you unaware that he supposedly won) and that Colt Knost captured last year's U.S. Mid Am, not the Pub Links. The things you learn!

Alright, hello friends, here we go...all times Pacific because you better deal with it. I just found out the U.S. Open will be finishing at 7 p.m. Pacific time this year. Chew on that Great Britain!

11:30 - Immelman drives it right off No. 1 where the tee is WAY up. Blasts out of trees into left second cut.

11:35 - Wow, they took this father-son theme up about six notches on the schmaltze meter today, with shots of Tiger and Zach holding baby pictures and a photo of Immelman's dad next to a pine tree.  

11:37 - Snedeker and Immelman leave themselves long par putts on 1. Tiger meanwhile has 219 into No. 2 but leaves it in middle of the front right bunker. Yikes.

11:39 - Padraig birdies 2 and 3, gets to -4. Cink to -5. Immelman lips out for par and makes a 5-footer for bogey. He and Snedeker both bogey 1.  Imm -10, Snedeker -8, Flesch -8, Casey -7.

11:45 - Tiger's birdie putt not close after backing off, backs off par putt now. Faldo speculates it's bunker sandy flying out. Nantz says pollen factor. Cink meanwhile birdies to get to -6. 

11:48 - Tiger hitting driver on No. 3, appears Cink outdrove him.  Snedeker and Immelman make very confident swings off No. 2 tee and drive it down the center.

11:53 - "No doubt it'll be a riveting day" - Nantz, but no mention of roars today. The fireplace is not cleaned, but we've lost the little table with the roses between the left and right seats. It was a bit too feminine even for Butler Cabin.

11:57 - Immelman 253 to hole, 230 to front on 2, hits it in front bunker.

12:01 - CBS graphic on Tiger's larges 54 hole comebacks includes 1996 Frys.com Open where he came back from 4 down. Uh, was Frys.com even in existence in 1996? Sheesh. 

12:05 - Cink hits awesome shot about 12 feet left of No. 4 hole's tough location, Tiger in front bunker.

12:06 - Snedeker eagles 2. Roar! Co-leader with Immelman. Most of all, he looks like he's have a blast. Meanwhile Immelman's putt isn't close. Oosterhuis notes the gallery murmuring.

12:09 - Snedeker hits driver on No. 3 into last left bunker. Tiger misses par putt on No. 4. Feherty reads our minds: Tiger looks worn out by the lack of results from the week. Dipped his head before lining up the bogey putt. Feherty also says Snedeker's eagle putt on No. 2 "was going off the green." Not sure about that!

12:14 - Snedeker buried in fairway bunker! Immelman "woefully short" on his approach according to Baker Finch.

12:16 - Tiger with a one-handed stinger off of No. 5, Flesch short of the bunker on No. 4. Yikes. Tiger leaves approach to No. 5 in worst possible spot.

12:17 - Snedeker's third on 3 earns another "leave it" call from either he or his caddy. What does that mean?

12:18 - Feherty declares the course is going to win today after Casey leaves first shot in bunker on No. 4. Has long putt for bogey. 

12:23 - CBS has a phenomenal shot showing No. 5 green and the putt Tiger faces. He leaves it a half-inch short. Amazing putt! May be just what he needed.  Cink meanwhile makes 7 footer for bogey to drop to -5.

12:29 - Nantz reports that Jimenez in with a 68 today. 4 of 45 players on the course are under par. And looking at the leaderboard, I see no score lower this week than 68.  

12:32 - Steve Flesch plays out of Triple Crown CC?  He nearly makes birdie on 5.  Pars on the first five holes and looking solid.

12:33 - Tiger makes first birdie of the day after hitting it three feet on No. 6. He's five back of Immelman. 

12:37 - Tiger on No. 7 tee. Yet another tee where markers are on the front. So far every tee has been all the way up. 

12:40 - Nice remembrance of the late Gay Brewer going to commercial. 

12:42 - Immelman with awesome second shot at 5.  

12:45 - Tiger leaves approach short on 7 and Kostis says you can sum up his week in one word: frustration. Nantz chimes in, "you know Peter everyone in the field feels that, not exclusive to one player." Kostis later on says he feels Tiger himself hasn't dealt with frustration this week as well as he has in the past. Tiger's body language would definitely back up Kostis.

12:46 - Casey grounds club, ball moves on 6 putting for par. Takes bogey, drops to -4.

12:49 - Immelman birdies gets to -11.  

12:50 - From reader Chris, something I wholeheartedly agree with: "The brilliant computer animated graphics have been very under used.  They are one of the best additions to the CBS broadcast in years and I wish we were seeing more of them."

12:53 - Faldo and Lundquist state their surprise at seeing the hole cut on the front of No. 6 instead of traditional back right spot.

12:54 - Flesch hits it in newly planted trees left of 7, Kostis notes the trees take away options.  Clubhouse cheer heard.

1:02 - Snedeker misses 10 footer for par on 6, Immelman pars, lead is 3.

1:04 -12 players in red figures.  Kostis notes that the three shot lead actually complicates his strategy, Faldo concurs.

1:08 - Great reaction shot of Tiger's third into No. 8. He comes up well short, has 20 footer for birdie.

1:09 -  Immelman tight on No. 7, Kostis says he was lucky with the bounce.

1:17 - Snedeker bogies 7, Immelman yanks 2 foot birdie putt on No. 7, still has four shot lead. Make that three with Flesch making birdie on 8.

1:20 - Immelman in fairway bunker off No. 8 tee.  Hits poor third shot in for third. Brings three putt into play.

1:31 - CBS with the very cool shot shape graphic of Tiger teeing off 10. Nice they saved that for the weekend and deprived ESPN. 

1:33 - Flesch with a "fabulous" shot into 9 according to Faldo. Misses putt badly but he's lurking three back.

1:35 - "Such a difficult putt" Oosty says of Immelman's birdie putt on No. 8.  Hits it about 8 feet by, misses. CBS reminds us that 16 of last 17 winners have come from last pairing. Zach last year being the exception.

1:41 - Nantz after Immelman's drive rolls into second cut on 9: "That won't be a fairway hit but it's in good position." 

1:47 - Great stuff: Nantz says Immelman has every major since 1984 on tape and has studied them. Trevor leaves his second shot short on 9, a no-no. Nantz also reports that Player is "en route to the Middle East" and hopes to watch when he arrives. He also reads his voice mail message to Trevor: "Take your time. And keep your eyes on the ball an extra second on putts. There will be bad breaks. I know you're going to win."

1:50 - Tiger and Cink never threaten 10th hole and make bogies. Tiger from right of green, Cink from left.

1:54 - Immelman's closed putting stance is interesting, we see it up close as he makes the par putt at 9. Leaderboard after nine: Immelman -10, Flesch -8, Snedeker -6, Woods -4, Mickelson -3. Time for leaders to play front nine: 2 hours and 29 minutes.

2:03 - CBS graphic: This week Immelman is -2 on the front, -8 on the back as he starts the final nine. 

2:06 - Mickelson bogies 16, Lundquist tells us that none of the last 20 players on the course is under par for the day.

2:16 - That seemed like a new interview with Jack about teh 1986 Masters. It never gets old seeing those highlights, does it? 

2:17 - "Now that's a roar, a Tiger roar" -Baker Finch says as Tiger drains a long, long putt on 11 to move within 5.

2:18 - CBS graphic: Trevor at Amen Corner, -3 this week. 

2:20 - Tiger hits 7-iron over right pin on 12. On fringey/second cut area. Dry. 

2:24 - Tiger makes nice par putt on 12, Flesch pars 11 to remain two back. Immelman and Snedeker waiting in fairway as leaf blowers clean 11 green. Baker Finch notes that they add to the "shine effect" on the greens.

2:29 - Snedeker has 229 into 11.  Flesch dumps it in the middle of Rae's Creek, looks up at trees. But he said "Go" after making contact.

2:31 - Immelman on 11 fairway. 222 out. Backs off or called off. CBS: Immelman +2 on Par 3s,  -10 on Par 4s, -2 on Par 5s for week. 

2:33 - Flesch with a tremendous shot to 12 after taking a drop. Doesn't make the putt. Double.

2:34 - Real warm and fuzzy handshake there between Phil and Vijay on 18! Vijay hands Phil his card at back of green! 

2:35 - Tiger has little backswing on 13. Faldo very surprised Stevie isn't providing some possible lay up yardages. Kostis: not much to be gained and lots to lose by being aggressive. Tiger hits great lay up leaves 100 yards or so. 

2:38 - Baker Finch and Nick talking about Nick and his great memories on 11. Like there's nothing else to talk about right now. Snedeker bogey drops to -5.

2:40 - Tiger laughing as he backs off shot on 13. Kostis notes that wind was into him when he approached the shot, now down.  Tiger nearly holes shot, has 4 footer for birdie to get him to -6 and in second place.

2:42 - Trevor drains long putt for par on 11. Roar! "Great stuff" - Baker Finch, four shot lead.

2:45 - Tiger misses the birdie putt on 13 but Immelman has major problems on 12 as his tee shot takes horrible bounce and ends up in pine straw left. 

2:49 - Snedeker is standing awfully close to Immelman at 12 isn't he? Trevor leaves shot in fringe, but as Faldo says "understandably" with that stance above the ball.

2:51 - Snedeker drains a long one on 12 for birdie!! Gets him back to -6. Baker Finch estimates 35-40 feet. Immelman leaves par putt 4-5 feet short, drains that though. Lead is 3.

2:55 - Someone's cell phone is on and near a microphone!  

2:57 - Tiger with a poor approach on 14, leaves himself a long birdie putt from lower shelf. Leaves that 9 feet short and misses, drops to -4 and five back. Immelman hits solid drive on 13 after Snedeker drives it deep down the left side to the nice flat lie. Wow, bold! 

3:02 - Immelman lays up on 13, Kostis feels it takes bogey out of the equation.  Snedeker seems stumped about what to do or by wind? Only has 199. They are talking it through but Faldo talks over them! Repeats yesterdays shot and hits it in the creek. Ugh.

3:06 - Immelman sticks wedge on 13 and that is huge. "That was special" -Faldo, Kostis praises "courage" to lay up. Amen. 

3:10 - Flesch three putts 14. His first of the week. Drops to -5.  With Snedeker making bogey on 13, lead about to go to five.

3:15 - Immelman makes the 2 footer, lead is five. "Is it enough?" Kostis asks. 

3:19 - Wow, back to back commercial breaks. There's something you don't normally see at the Masters.

3:23 - Tiger stiffs it on 16 but appears to be out of reach barring a Tin Cup finish. Oh Verne points out the new viewing area on 16...again.

3:28 - Snedeker three putts. Flesch bogies 15. Tiger misses birdie putt on 16. Lead is 6.

3:33 - The wind appears to be getting worse and the temperature dropping. Immelman has his hands in his pockets as he walks off 15 tee.
3:39 - Leaderboard...wow: Immelman -10, Woods -4, Snedeker -4, Cink -4, Flesch -3

3:49 - Immelman clearly hits it in the water. Lundquist thinks he's in the sand. CBS has no shot of ripples?

3:54 - Tiger hits it close on 18. Birdie would get him to -5. He drains it. Looks at leaderboard, shakes his head.

3:56 - Immelman taps in for double. Drops to -8. Lead is 3 over Woods, 4 over Snedeker who bogies 16.

4:00 - "I just didn't make any putts all week." -Tiger Oh, and 60 Minutes is coming up for everyone except on the West Coast. In about an hour. Maybe.

4:05 - Immelman in front bunker, "anything long and left he could have a putter in his hand." - Oosty

4:10 - Hits excellent bunker shot, makes the putt! Good for you Trevor, three shot lead to 18.

4:12 - "A lot of sacrificing to get this prodigy to this point." -Nantz on the Immelman family.

4:14 - Great moment, Trevor exhales after hitting the tee shot on 18! Poor lad was so nervous he was unable to acknowledge the ovation on 18. Looks like he wanted to try but was just too focused on the tee shot.

4:19 - Oh my lord, he's in a deep divot! Ugh.

4:21 - Great shot, keeps it below. "Get lucky" is his call. He brings Snedeker over for the walk up 18. Class touch. He's not smilling, appears to be holding back tears.

4:24 - NIce standing-O for Snedeker. Shoots 77, finishes -4.

4:25 - Round now at 5 hours. The final putt...almost goes in. Big smile, waves, class act, waves his family out. Caddie already grabs the flag and hands it to his son. Somewhere in the Middle East Gary Player is bawling his brains out!

4:29 - Kerry Haigh double checking the scorecard on the computer.

4:36 - Green jacket ceremony starting. The mantle above the fireplace appears to have been cleaned! Billy: We have questions to be asked. Thankfully Nantz will be asking them.

4:38 - Gary Players advice mentioned. He certainly got the message on taking his time. Oh Jim asking about the family sacrifice. Trevor mentions his parents taking out extra mortgages to help pay for him to travel overseas.

4:40 - Trevor Immelman is the man at the 2008 Masters" - Nantz. Over and out.




"Golf is going to have to do a lot of thinking in the future."

Reader Andruw pointed me to this AP story talking about how all the well-off patron offspring would be getting in this week to help grow the game. Not much of interest, though this quote from Gary Player is worth remembering:

"Golf rounds are going down. The average golf course is getting so long. All the clubs you go to are making their golf courses longer and longer, so all the costs are going up and up," Player said. "Golf is going to have to do a lot of thinking in the future. That’s why we need a lot of young people to be playing golf."


2008 Masters Saturday Live Blog

masterslogo.gifI knew the heavyweights would come to the club's defense. William Rhoden pens a mess of a piece in today's New York Times, John Paul Newport's piece made me laugh and I just heard Tim Rosaforte declare on Golf Channel that those of us who miss the old, more vulnerable and democratic Augusta are suffering from a bout of revistionist historitis.

Here we go, feel free to email comments to geoffshac@aol.com and post your thoughts below. All times Pacific because I feel like it.

12:30 -  Here we go. We open with Phil making a 7 footer for par on No. 1 and the final pairing in the fairway. Right to the golf, very nice.

12:34 - Okay I typed too soon. We're doing Arnold Palmer baby pictures, fathers and sons and eghhh..."the circle of life at Augusta" according to Jim Nantz. Take that Tim Rice and Elton John! Will Elton-buddy Nick Faldo break into his own rendition?

12:42 - Tiger misses right of No. 9 green from right second cut. But as Nantz notes, after the 45 minute rain delay the ball stays close to the green. Conditions are ripe for scoring, let's see if it happens. 

12:43 - This camera angle on No. 2 is outstanding and I believe new? It really shows of the brilliance of this green complex. 

12:45 - Leaderboard: Immelman -8, Snedeker -7, Mickelson -6, Poulter -5, Casey -5, Flesch -5. 

12:50 - New 3-D animation from CBS showing No. 10's terrain. VERY cool. 

12:51 - First "Hello friends" from Jim Nantz. And I'm said to say this blog has no influence as the fireplace looks worse than ever.

12:56 - Snedeker makes birdie on No. 2 and appears very relaxed. He moves to -8 in tie with Immelman who misses a 5 footer that Oosterhuis notes was "not a difficult putt" twice.

12:58 - Phil pulling out wedge on 3 green after horrible approach shot. Nantz's photographic memory recalls Phil doing the same thing last year at Riviera.  I was there and I barely remember it! Phil leaves himself a 20 footer that he makes for par.

1:01 - Tiger birdies No. 10, -2 today, -3 overall and just five back. 

1:10 - IBM airs businesspeak buzzword bingo ad!  

1:16 - Tiger's birdie putt on 11 is accompanied by an open mike sound that was actually Frank Chirkinian screaming about Nick Faldo pulling a Johnny Miller and reminding us how the putt was the same one he had when he won there in a playoff. Of course the green has been rebuilt and Faldo noted the hole is cut in a different spot, but other than that it's close!

1:19 - Immelman pulls it left of 4 green and we see a half empty grandstand. What's the deal patrons? 

1:24 - Immelman misses for par on No. 4, Snedeker is your lone leader at -8. 

1:28 - A reader noted that the number of spike marks is rather incredible considering there are only 46 players on the golf course today. Imagine a full field on those greens...

1:40 - Tiger on No. 13, at the Masters graphic from CBS: Par 3s +18, Par 4s +6, Par 5s -87. 

1:47 - Leaderboard update with leaders through 6 holes: Snedeker -8, Immelman -7, Flesch -7, Casey -7, Mickelson -5, Poulter -5, Woods -4, O'Hair -4

1:54 - Snedeker leaves approach into 7 in front bunker, gives caddy a look and head shake that makes me think he was talked into a club that left him short.

1:55 - We see the rear view of No. 14 green. When did the big tree that was protecting the left front come down?  I haven't seen that mentioned in any stories about course changes.

2:01 - Paul Casey birdies No. 9, fires 32 on the front to join the lead with Snedeker.

2:04 - Tiger hits his tee shot down the left of 15, twirls the club and calls himself a "dumbass." 

2:07 - Poulter shanks it from a slight downhill lie on No. 9 fairway, skulls his next wedge shot. But at least he looks great.  

2:08 - Tiger hits massive hook into No. 15 right greenside bunker. Stevie is not wearing his caddy issued green hat.  He's such a maverick!

2:10 - Nantz brings in Peter Kostis, Paul Casey's longtime instructor who says they worked on sidehill lies and shaping shots coming into Augusta. Kostis said too many players are working on technique when they get to Augusta.

2:14 - Leaders on 8. At least half of spectators in grandstand dressed as seats. Snedeker birdie putt swirls around cup, gets him to -9 and Oosterhuis notes that he looks "pretty comfortable in this situation."

2:22 - CBS replays the epic Tiger chip in from 2005. It never gets old. And that seemed like a new camera angle, or maybe it was just treated with a different finish. 

2:29 - Faldo notes the pressure is changing...players are sporting rain gear, it's cooling off.  

2:34 - Something is wrong here. The leaders are walking down 10 and fans are walking up the hill in the opposite direction, leaving in droves! 

2:37 - Nantz says it's "thinning out at the top" as Mickelson misses his par putt on 10. Meanwhile Retief is sneaking up the leaderboard, making eagle 3 on No. 13. "It's interesting what's happening here Nick" as Nantz lists all of the people backing up. Meanwhile Snedeker looks calm, cool and like he's having fun.

2:40 - That's what we need to hear, a few more roars on the back nine" - Oosterhuis after roar following Tiger's second near-hole-out on No. 17. 

2:48 - Tiger is on 18 in the trees and Faldo says he can see his opening from his booth. Nantz says "really," meaning he is still in Butler Cabin. They had me fooled, I thought they were announcing from the same spot!  Tiger hits awesome recovery. Better get a tree out there to fill in that gap. That was way too heroic!

2:55 - Tiger makes ho-hum par, 68, -5, four back. CBS reminds us with a graphic that he's never won a major trailing after 54.  

3:00 - Bill Macatee tracks down Tiger behind 18 "who said 68 was about the highest score I could have shot" and that he put himself "right back in the tournament."

3:18 - Leaders play 12, Snedeker makes bogey, Immelman makes par, grandstand manages to remain mostly full. 

3:21 - Phil nearly makes eagle, gets him to -3. As Kostis notes, one more birdie and he might get himself in a pairing with Tiger. 

3:22 - Graphic of No. 15 green complex by CBS - simply phenomenal stuff. Wonder who did this for them? What a great addition to the presentation.

3:25 - Snedeker has 231 into No. 13, almost misses creek to the right. "Really bad error at this point in the proceedings" says Kostis who noted he was aiming right before the shot was hit. Immelman nails wedge shot third tight.

3:29 - "This golf course with its redesign doesn't allow you to recover much" - Kostis after Paul Casey's bogey on 15 and what he sees as tentative plays.

3:32 - Oh oh, Phil birdies 14 and just like that he's -4 again after struggling.  Sure would have been nice to have seen that approach shot.

3:37 - Three straight bogies for Snedeker, but "he still has that smile" according to Macatee.

3:38 - Leaderboard update: Immelman -9, Casey -8, Flesch -7, Snedeker -6, Woods -5, Mickelson -4, Cink -4, Goosen -3 

3:44 - Snedeker gets it back to -7 with birdie on 14, Flesch and Mickelson hit great spinning thirds to 15 and Immelman drains birdie on 14 to move to -10. Some excitement! Augusta is back! Well, not quite but at least something's happening.

3:51 - Phil misses in right greenside bunker on 16, making possible Tiger pairing that much tougher. CBS announce crew goes into mourning mode. 

3:56 - "It's about as hard to hit the green here as it is up the hill." - Feherty, describing the third shot into 15. 

3:58 - Whoa, Immelman hits No. 15 green, spins it back and Feherty thinks it is going into the water but as it's rolling, he notes a flat spot. Sure enough it nestles down. Nantz chimes in with a comparison to the 1992 Fred Couples shot stopping on the bank. Great stuff!

4:03 - Snedeker drains birdie putt, moves to -8 as Phil doubles 16 to drop to -2. Immelman gets up and down from front bank, lead still at 2.

4:06 - Snedeker hits 7 iron to middle of green, ball rolls down to lower shelf. Immelman yanks it way let but ends up in the same spot as Snedeker. Which hole location is more lame on 16, today's or the front right one we haven't seen (thankfully) this week. 

4:11 - Two fine two-putts from the lower shelf by Snedeker and Immelman. And we know they are fine two putts thanks to Phil from just a moment ago. Immelman -10, Snedeker -8.

4:12 - Oy vey, Peter Kostis interviewing his client Paul Casey. Uh, is Bill Macatee having lunch? Come on CBS, it's one thing to get Peter's insights on Paul's game, which were great, but this is a no-no. Even Kostis looks uncomfortable doing it. Proof: the hilarious "good luck" afterwords, when they're probably having dinner together! Nantz says it's a bit "surreal." That's one way of putting it.

4:26 - Flesch sticks 180 yard shot on 18, birdie gets him to a 69 and -8 and may get him in the last pairing. Immelman is in second cut on 17 and stops his approach too quickly actually. The cut doesn't appear to hurt him. Makes nice two-putt while Snedeker makes solid par.

4:31 - Great audio work by CBS guys to get Snedeker and caddy talking about his 6-iron club selection on 18. Snedeker hits it 6-7 feet.  Big smiles for Brandt and caddy.

4:33 - Immelman hits it inside Snedeker. "Unreal" declares Nantz.  "How about these two shots?"

4:35 - Bill Macatee is back from his lunch break to interview Steve Flesch!! "You're in the moment here," declares Macatee. Oy vey.

4:38 - Snedeker makes his birdie, finishes -9 after a -2 70. Finishes 2 back of Immelman who birdies as well t finish -11 after a 69.  "Phenomenal" declares Nantz.  Took 4:10 to play the round.

4:39 - Well that was a fun day, some great moments late in the round thanks to birdies by the leaders. A shame Phil took himself out but still has the ingredients for an exciting final day. 

Clampett Apologizes For Racial Slur; No Contrition Yet For Repeated Hogan's Bridge References

Considering that his is a man who used to use "jizz" to describe spin and mentioned someone almost "bottomed out" in lieu of hole in one, why am I not surprised that Bobby Clampett used a description for Wen-Chong Liang that only Morty Seinfeld uses.

Michael David Smith reports on his apology and also questions the wording of the apology in this AOL FanHouse post.

Clampett has been working Amen Corner the last two days, and his commentary can be heard both online and on DirecTV. He used the "chinaman" slur while describing Liang's round and explaining that he will not make the cut.

"It has been a privilege to be here with you the last 2 days describing action of all of the players. In describing the Asian player Wen-Chong Liang if I offended anybody please accept me sincere apologies."

"This course is so vastly different [from other courses] in so many ways"

Somehow I missed this really excellent Lorne Rubenstein piece from Thursday before the first round unfolded.

Crenshaw played yesterday with Jim Furyk and Mike Weir, who is increasingly interested in course design. At one point, Crenshaw and Weir stood on the rear left of the 10th green. Crenshaw was gesturing toward various areas as though he were a teacher explaining things to a student. He continued to instruct as they walked to the 11th tee.

When they were finished a couple of hours later, Crenshaw was delighted to chat about Augusta National. He stood behind the 18th green and offered what amounted to a scholarly analysis of the place: where it was, and where it is.

"This course is so vastly different [from other courses] in so many ways," Crenshaw said.

"When you start narrowing the corridors so much, you feel like the test is like another course. There's never been a more strategic course than this one, in that it makes you really think and plan an angle of attack."

Crenshaw, like any player who really understands architecture, rues the lessened importance of strategic golf. He emphasized that the elements still remain when the course plays fast and firm so that the ball bounces, but even then not nearly as much as he'd like and as was once the case.


Augusta National's course consultant, Tom Fazio, has supervised the changes. He claims that the course needs some rough and added length.

"I disagree with that notion," Crenshaw said of the idea that golfers don't play the angles any more. "To play some of these pins, you want to be on one side or the other. You want to go this way or that way, either off the tee or into the green.

"There's no doubt that Augusta National and courses all over the world have to do something in defence of their course, with the way that these guys can play and the way that the ruling bodies let equipment go," Crenshaw added. "It's a Catch-22. I understand what they've done. But a place like this, it's a thinking test."

The same day, Bill Huffman quoted Ben this way:

“It plays much harder,” Crenshaw noted. “My only question is: Is it as interesting as it used to be or can be?

“In other words, the top players who have a chance, how do they play the course? Do they play it more defensively now, because there’s so much more golf course?”

Round Two Thoughts

Wow, 5 hours and 37 minutes later for the last group, what a strange day. Thankfully the course was vulnerable in the morning, making for great Amen Corner Live viewing. Unfortunately the afternoon provided more defensive golf with the combo of breeze, drying conditions and slow play.

Tiger seems nicely positioned, as does Phil. The ingredients are there for a classic, hopefully the weather will cooperate. Oh, and that the course setup will make it about the players and not themselves. Today was a nice first step.

Your thoughts? 

PS - I'll be doing a live blog of the weekend rounds so come on by and post away. 

"I have to address or look at the round differently starting out."

Phil Mickelson, after his second round 68 got him within three of Masters leader Immelman.

Q. Is it still fun playing this golf course or is it a grind?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's changed. I mean, it's changed. It's always fun, don't get me wrong. It's always fun to come play here, but after the changes a few years ago, we don't see the same type of excitement and birdies that we're used to seeing.

And because of that, we have to -- I have to address or look at the round differently starting out. I can't think about it in aggressive terms. I have to kind of pick and choose what holes I can try to make birdies on. Like I said earlier, I hit some good shots to spots where I can make easy pars but really not good birdies.