Weeks In Review, April 2-15: Masters

WeekInReview2.jpgSince there was no week in review while the Masters was unfolding, we're playing catch-up here. And instead of going through all of the key stories posted, I'd direct you to the Journal Topics (2006 Masters) or the Monthly Archive for April.

Instead, I wanted to highlight just some of the many great reader comments over the last few weeks. It is interesting to think that just a few years ago, the tangled connection between technology, design and setup was murky at best for most. And now...

When Ron Kroichik looked at the distance issue and the Masters ball concept, reader Kirk Gill wrote, "Tiger says that putting the brakes on the distance a golf ball will travel would hurt the golf ball making industry. Uh, excuse me. All it would do would be to put pressure on the manufacturers to find other ways besides distance to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Like they did for decades. People play golf. People use golf balls. People either lose or beat up their golf balls to the point that they need to get new ones."

M. Kavanaugh said, "My wife and I have been buying new razor blades for years as well as golf balls, do we really care what the latest Schick will do for a clean close shave? Not really, same with golf balls."

On the story of Phil Mickelson and his two drivers, JPB wrote, "If a player chooses to use one of his 14 clubs on an extra driver - fine. Nobody had major problems with 4 wedges...I think a player should be able to use what he wants within the limit...I don't know how much is new technology and how much is fat laziness and not practicing, but it doesn't surprise me he is trying this. I actually think it is a good idea given the importance of the drive. Better to dump a long iron and carry 2 drivers. I sort of admire Phil for trying it actually."

And Smolmania said: "I would hate for someone to tell me that I can't put 5 wedges in my bag as indicative of a lack of skill. In my view, the configuration of a bag is a question of choices. When you miss as many greens as I do, you need options. . . and I choose wedges."

Mike Clayton previewed the Masters, prompting this from RM, "It's the tree plantings that are the most troubling, and really just plain crazy. Changes to Augusta- tees, bunkers, etc.- always blend in perfectly, but these new trees just do not belong. They don't look right and feel out of place, not to mention they just make the holes claustrophobic, contrary to the strategy and charm of the course. They could always just cut them down, but I have a feeling Hootie would never let his pride take such a hit."

Tiger's pre-Masters press conference talked about design and his love of Royal Melbourne, prompting skannberg to write, "it's amazing tiger loves the sandbelt courses so much, even wants to design like em. why then does he constantly refuse to play 'em every year."

After reading Leonard Shapiro's story on the odd USGA-Augusta National relationship, JM noted, "The smugness is what kills me. It's half Oz and all 'we are above the game,' which is exactly the kind of thinking that goes hand-in-hand with developing "brands" and protecting the unhuman concept that has become the Masters, and what ultimately ends up repelling people from golf. Where is the honest, strategy-based golf competition between the best players in the game, against themselves and a masterpiece of a course, where the fans are treated to unpredictable and thrilling golf?  I will be hard-pressed to explain to my son or my colleagues -- who have no interest in golf for these very reasons, despite my protestations -- that the challenges and rewards of the game are physically and psychically worth my obsession -- and, 'no really,' perhaps theirs, as well."

Regarding the wonderful Amen Corner Live and the announce team of Phil Blackmar and Mike Hulbert, Dan G. noted that, "I was feeling pretty guilty about procrastinating with my school work. Then Bobby Clampett came on and I got right back to work."

And hearing David Feherty's course change-cheerleading, Rick Adams said, "Perhaps David's trying to make up to the lords of CBS for his soapbox comment,"Why is Marv Albert working and Ben Wright isn't?"

During the Masters rain delay, we looked back at the surprising article submitted by reader Michael that revealed Perry Maxwell's planned 1937 changes, prompting reader Hux to observe:  "It appears our dearest Maxwell betrayed Dr. Mackenzie before his blood was cold in the ground. As did Jones. Say it ain't so."

Regarding the final round, there were plenty of opinions. Ned Ludd:  "Wouldn't it be something if they could spend their billions on cloning Alister MacKenzie so HE could make the changes, if any, to the course...or in the alternative, lay down the law regarding equipment. To here Nantz et al. talk about MacKenzie in such prayerful tones when all the bunkers scream Alabama Golf Trail is sad."

Dan G. wrote, "I found Kostis holding up Clark as proof that short-knockers have a chance pretty annoying. But in the interview it seemed to me like Clark felt he was at quite a disadvantage once it rained."

DAW had a different take: "The players hit some good shots that could have led to heroics but they couldn't follow them up with putts. If Couples and Tiger made their eagles, would people be talking about how there was no buzz on the back nine? I think that the field just didn't get it done on Sunday and it's convenient but not accurate to blame it on the course."

And reader Brett:  "It was as boring as a U.S. Open. Guys puking all over themselves. Tons of greens missed. Shoes that needed some real spikes, Rocco Mediate. A 66 on Sunday by Olazabal, the low score of the week. Bangers having a 5 club advantage. Steve is right, on the weekend I went and played golf instead of watching the Masters, no excitement. None."

RM attends the Masters annually and wrote: "I must admit that there was a different feel to it this year. The players definitely had a look of serious concern on their faces at all times. At one point after lunch on Thursday there were only 2 players under par, and only -1. If it weren't for Rocco and Vijay getting hot, it would have been a rough start and the changes would have been the story rather than the golf. Although I think the changes played out better than we thought, they probably got a little lucky, and it might not be long until we get a real US Open type Masters where some undeserving player hangs on for dear life and snags a green jacket with an over par score. And at that point we will really begin to realize just what we're missing.

In the course verdict watch department, Etienne wrote:  "Had the club lengthened the course step by step over the last few years to find the correct balance in combating technology and the design integrity of Jones and Mackenzie, this second cut stuff would not have been necessary. Jones' philosophy of golf (and Augusta) being a second shot game would have held true."

On Kevin Mitchell's blistering column about the role of manufacturers in the game today, J.P. wrote: "Mitchell is saying that golf's history is like the baby being thrown out with the bath water, because the USGA has been over ruled by the manufacturers. For the manufacturers, its been like taking candy from a baby."

The USGA's Distance Myth's talking points were released at Augusta and Oldschool says that the "USGA for whatever reason is now implementing a cover up. Keep trying Walter, but the stats do not support your (myths) opinions."

Reader Michael noted, "Hogan called the tee shot the most important shot in golf...To see what has happened with driving accuracy succumbing to driving distance as being the majority deciding factor in the game today is shameful. All of this for what? To hear the USGA saying that their main mission is the preservation of the game, and in maintaining its history and integrity is heresy."

RGM said: "The USGA is in full cover up mode. Their test was set up for 109 miles per hour, Walter Driver claims the average swing speed is 112, why did they up it to 120? Was it because at 109 the real technological evidence was revealing itself. Ut...Oh! Yes, that's why they did it. It was too evident at 109 with whats happened in the past 4 years. The USGA also changed its testing for COR, another red flag. These changes haven't produced clearer results, but to the contrary have created a clouded, cloaked situation from which the USGA is testing."

And Tour Rep offered this:  "Everything described on this post is 95% accurate. The other 5% I can not verify with certainty but it lends itself to practicality. Knowing what I do, from the week in, week out drill, the ball and driver has certainly ruined golf on the professional level. It's easy for me to say this after 25 plus years in the industry and dealing with the latest equipment yearly. The sport is now dependent on bombing, we build 4 times as many drivers each week in the trailer as compared to sets of irons. Each driver we build consists of every conceivable shaft weight, flex profile, frequency, torque, butt and tip stiffness profile, and believe it or not color. These guys know that distance today means everything, and that's all they think about. Ten years ago the emphasis was on irons, wedges, and putters. I see the difference, which is sad for golf."

On the rumor that Merion is looking good for the 2013 U.S. Open, Smolmania wrote, "Why are we going to have an Open at a course where Tiger, Phil, and the big hitters won't even be able to think about pulling driver out of the bag? Sorry to say, but until something is done about the ball, there's no reason to try to hold our national championship at Merion."

And finally, on the news that Rees Jones had restored Medinah with MacKenzie/Tilly bunkers, DK said, "So Medinah has MacKenzie and Tillinghast bunkers. Does it also have Maxwell greens, Jones Sr. tee boxes, Colt and Alison hollows, Emmet cross bunkers, and Travis chocolate drops? You know just like Bendelow designed it."