Early Augusta Previews: Jack and Arnie's Comments

masterslogo2.gifThe recent changes to Augusta National pale compared to 2002's massive overhaul, yet on the eve of the 2006 Masters the hits just keep on coming. The difference this time around? 

Several past champions bemoaned the latest work, and more importantly, questioned how the work reflects the Jones-MacKenzie design vision that the club says they are maintaining.

The Sunday previews from the British Isles provide more evidence that Augusta National's fall media offensive may have backfired.

First, John Huggan in his Sunday column:

Although arrogant beyond imagination, Johnson is no fool. He could see the outrage coming. Which is why a series of no doubt carefully-selected golf writers have been invited to visit the hallowed grounds over the past few months.

Their brief, at least ostensibly, was to form an opinion on the sagacity or otherwise of the course changes. But the reality was simply Johnson looking for public validation. He was spinning more than a crisply-struck Tiger Woods wedge from a tight lie.

Disappointingly, but expectedly, most of the resulting articles have been a mixture of ignorance and/or forelock-tugging. Obviously flattered by their being summoned from 'above', the chosen few behaved more like paid flunkies than free thinkers.

James Corrigan in the Independent reviewed the pre-tournament criticism while Andy Farrell made an important point in the lead to his story reviewing the comments of Nicklaus and Palmer:

It used to be a Masters tradition for players and caddies to arrive for their first practice round at Augusta National and wonder whether the first tee had been moved - or the clubhouse. The evolution of the course was constant, if often undeclared. Under the chairmanship of Hootie Johnson, the pace of change has increased dramatically, and everyone knows about it.