I bet when Hootie Johnson and Tom Fazio started tinkering with Augusta National they never thought they'd be lumped in with Torrey Pines...and actually have someone be complimenting them at the same time:
"Now, I like these changes," [Charles] Howell said. "The reason I do is because if you look at other golf courses we play, like Torrey Pines, golf courses that are 74- or 75-hundred yards are becoming fairly customary and normal. I don't think you want to play a major championship on a golf course that is not in keeping with other courses we play on tour in terms of length."
"Any time you take a golf course and completely overhaul it, you're going to get some mixed feelings," Howell said of the evolution of his opinions. "But now I think it's fine. I really do. There isn't one thing I saw at Augusta National that I haven't seen done everywhere else."
But aren't we drawn to Augusta/The Masters because they didn't do things like everywhere else? Sorry, I interrupted again. Looks like Scott Michaux--author of the story where Howell's comments appeared--was thinking the same thing:
Purists will argue that Augusta National isn't everywhere else and should be above trying to keep up with the Joneses or Woodses or whoever. Being held to a different standard is part of the unique fascination with Augusta's evolution.
"It's a change for Augusta National," Howell said, "but if you forget how the golf course used to be, it's fine. If this is your first year coming and playing the Masters, you won't think any big deal of it. The problem is that everybody has watched the Masters since they were old enough to watch TV and everybody knows that golf course better than they know any other golf course in the world."
Michaux also writes:
And the eye-popping new measurement for the par-4 No. 11 (505 yards) only begins to tell how much harder that hole has become.
"The shortest 11 can play is 505," Howell said, saying the yardage marker is situated at the extreme front of the tee box instead of the customary center. "I walked it to the back and it was 513, which puts it longer than No. 13."
Now that's more like the old time-Clifford Roberts run Augusta we all love and know.
The biggest impact of all the recent changes might be forcing many of the older champions to give up playing in the Masters much sooner than expected. The latest changes almost guarantee that Jack Nicklaus will not change his mind and return to play one more Masters on the 20th anniversary of his epic 1986 victory.
Other past champions like Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw might be forced to retire far sooner than their predecessors or risk embarrassing themselves on a course now built for younger players.
"I think it will keep a lot of guys from coming back," Howell said, lamenting the potential loss of a unique aspect of the tournament which allowed him to play in his first Masters with Gary Player.
Now that's less like the old time-Clifford Roberts run Augusta we all love and know.