Golf World's Bill Fields looks at the complaints surrounding Augusta's latest renovation and seems prepared to join the critics questioning the rationale and execution of the changes.
At what point does an icon, instead of aging gracefully and naturally, get his face stretched so taut that he becomes a parody of his former self?
Ouch. After citing Mike Weir's reasoned critique as reported last week by Ken Fidlin, Fields has this interesting quote from Mark O'Meara:
To add intrigue, 1998 Masters champion Mark O'Meara is against a reflex to add yardage. "The most talked about holes in golf in the last two years," O'Meara says, "are the shortest holes in golf. They create the most havoc with the best players. Sixteen at Doral, 10 at Riviera, 12 at Augusta. It's the short holes that make a player have to think. If you want to mess with the pros, make them have to make a decision."
Regarding Sawgrass, he picks up on a subject discussed here earlier this week:
In addition to the better turf that will come with Sawgrass' renovation, Woods, for one, would like to see the course much like it was when it first opened. "I've talked to a lot of guys about this," Woods said a year ago at the Players, "and we've all come to the same conclusion: It would be a lot better if there was no rough at all, like how it used to be played … but they've kind of changed that and gone to a U.S. Open-type setup."
And he sums it in a way that gives the impression he's not too optimistic about the chances of Augusta removing its second cut:
With so many young players, who because of their tools, technique and temperament are swatting the ball one way -- hard -- there is all the more reason to offer variety in the courses they encounter. An Augusta National -- without rough, with options -- was the beau ideal. New applicants are now welcome.
Reader Stan notes that Fields has come a long way. I think his column above, contrasted with this 2002 article titled "Bob Jones Would Approve," speak to either the quality the changes, or perhaps the use of Bobby Jones' name to justify changes that seem driven to produce a certain winning score:
If Jones could see golf being played now -- besides being amazed by the job the lawnmowers do -- he would probably say the more things change, the more they remain the same. "In taking a hard look at modern golf," he wrote in his 1966 book, Bobby Jones On Golf, "I find in the play from tee to green little difference indicating any considerable superiority of the present-day player over the dozen or so better players of my era." At that time, Jones was impressed by how well current pros putted. Today, Jones would no doubt give the new breed credit for how skillfully they chip and pitch the ball as well. Smoother greens, yes, but also smoother strokes. Jones never kidded himself.
As he had with Nicklaus, Jones would see a little of himself in Tiger Woods -- the talent, the focus, the knack for pulling off the shot that has to be hit with everything on the line. Of the newly lengthened Augusta National GC layout, he would smile that more middle irons are being pulled out for second shots, and he would tell any complainers -- perhaps in the most literate e-mail one could hope to receive -- that you're supposed to work for some of your birdies. And to those golfers whose pre-shot routines last as long as a movie, Jones would tell them to get on with it.
He'd recognize the game and admire the place but wonder: How'd these Georgia ponds get so blue?