Ferguson On Augusta Changes

masterslogo.jpegDid I miss a media day? Now AP's Doug Ferguson weighs in from Augusta (these guys must know a lot of members!) and reports on the "attempt to restore the rhythm and shot value the way Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie designed it."


Ferguson employed the Bobby Jones quote describing what the greatest of them all expected players to hit into No. 4 from then until eternity.

Jones gave Sports Illustrated a hole-by-hole description in 1959 and said of the par-3 fourth, ''The shot is usually a strong iron, or even a 4- or 3-wood.''

Here's what Jones wrote:

This hole can be varied a great deal, depending on the use of the back tee or the rear portion of the forward tee. From the back tee the shot is usually a strong iron or even a four or three wood.

In other words, he expected both tees to be used to create the day-to-day variety that he loved in St. Andrews (and wrote about extensively). Hopefully the committee will do the same this year.

Regarding the first hole, Ferguson writes: 

The tee box has been moved back about 20 yards to make the hole play 455 yards, although change at Augusta National is not all about length.

The eye-opener is that cavernous bunker down the right side, where a finger of turf now dips into the sand and creates the appearance of a double bunker. Balls rarely will be in the middle of the sand, allowing for a routine escape; now there will be steep lips in the way.

Here's what Jones wrote about No. 1:

This hole can be played straight away from tee to green, although the fairway does expand on the right as it approaches the green. Ordinarily, the fairway bunker on the right presents no problem for the tournament player. With a heavy wind against, however, as often happens, a half-hit tee shot may catch this bunker.

He went on to write mostly about the strategy of the green complex, which thankfully retains its brilliance today (until Tom Fazio convinces Hootie he can reproduce it 10 yards back and 30 to the right.

But no mention from Jones of teeing off from Butler Cabin if necessary to get the bunker in play. And nothing about adding bunker tongues to discourage those heroic recovery shots. In fact, in the chapter on Augusta he noted:

...the elimination of purely punitive hazards provides an opportunity for the player to retrieve his situation by an exceptional second shot. A course which is constructed with these principles in view must be interesting, because it will offer problems which a man may attempt, according to his ability.

Those democratic golf values are so last century Bobby!

Ferguson lets Dow Finsterwald sum up what the changes are really about.

Augusta National is longer and harder than ever. Players hit the ball longer and better than ever.

''Their ability is so marvelous,'' [Dow] Finsterwald said. ''It's not that they're so much longer, they're straighter. And there are more good putters than there were. So I don't think the test has changed. But players have risen to the changes. But the scores stay pretty much in the ballpark, don't they?''