Course Changes Verdict Watch Vol. 8

masterslogo2.gifBecause I admire his work and know that he's respected down in Augusta, I was dreading Jaime Diaz's Golf World story after reading the headline and subtitle: "On Second Thought, Masters officials knew precisely what they were doing when they executed the most recent changes to Augusta National."

But as with other headlines that celebrate Hootie Johnson as the architectural second coming of Tillinghast, the stories themselves paint a much different picture.

After Diaz lays out all of the worst case scenarios that didn't pan out (you know, because Tim Clark finished second), he then raises plenty of questions about the renovation and the way Augusta now plays.

Ben Crenshaw, in one of the apparently complimentary quotes, is really not very kind if you read between the lines:

"It's a hard golf course now," said Crenshaw, whose two Masters victories (1984 and 1995) came on a shorter, more wide-open track that allowed a kind of swashbuckling style that would be too low-percentage to fit the more stolid demands of the current 7,445-yard beast. "Every part of the game gets examined, and it used not to be like that," explained Crenshaw, who also happens to be a first-rate course architect. "You had times in the past where you had a green light, and it was so exciting to just let it go. Now, every hole is difficult. It's hard for a guy to really get on a run. You're trying to avoid danger. You've got to really watch it."

Sure, some will see hard and test in there and get excited (because it takes such genius to create a difficult golf course).

Then there was this from Geoff Ogilvy:

"I don't know if it's my place to say," said the 28-year-old Australian, who finished T-16 in his first Masters, "but I've been dreaming about playing here for 20 years, and I think what they've done is borderline tragic, to be honest with you. I don't have a problem with the lengthening, because it is ridiculous where we hit it. But the answer isn't to narrow the fairways, because that just takes away the freedom of expression that always made Augusta special. They should keep the length, but take out the new trees and cut the rough. Then they'd be back to having the best golf course in the world."

And Scott Verplank:

"Sure, they lost a little of the character of the golf course," said Verplank. "But the game has changed so much. If somebody would fix the equipment issue, Augusta wouldn't have to do this."

Another, anti-golf ball technology, Hollywood elite, media member. Oh wait, he's a player. Oops!

Also with the Diaz story is a sidebar on Johnny Miller's triumphant return to Augusta to kiss up to Peter Dawson as part of NBC's bid to get the British Open after a 12 year hiatus, he proves just how stunningly how out of touch he is by not only revealing he was unaware that major winners could play in the Wednesday par-3 contest, and then offered up this brilliance:

Though he considers Augusta National's latest course revisions to make good sense, Miller said he is not in favor of a rollback in the modern golf ball or other substantial equipment reform. "The professional game is in good shape," he insisted. "A good way to cut some distance would be to cut the fairway grass a little longer, the same length we played on in the 1970s. It would stop drives from rolling 50 yards."

Oh what a great idea. You know, because it's really all in how much the ball is rolling Johnny. 

Note to Dick Ebersol: hire Faldo, and hire him fast.