Lawrence Donegan in The Guardian: "If Hootie Johnson, the chairman of Augusta National golf club, did not already know the wholesale changes to the most familiar golf course in the world were unpopular with those who have to play it at the Masters this week, he knows now.The defending champion Tiger Woods, in a breach of his lifelong vow of public blandness, yesterday delivered a devastating critique of the decision to lengthen six holes, narrow fairways and plant dozens of new trees around the Augusta National course."
Yes, Tiger sat down for his annual Masters Q&A, and as Donegan writes, there was little of nuance in his take on the course changes:
Q. As you go around the course after the changes have been made, what spots do you say, wow, this really is different?
TIGER WOODS: Well, every one they have changed. (Laughter).
4, I've never hit lumber.
4, I've never hit lumber into 4, that's different. Yesterday I hit 3 wood. My buddy, O'Meara, hit driver. That's a tough hole now. Like it wasn't an easy hole before; now it's even harder.
First interruption here...driver? Oh lordy.
Bobby Jones is too shocked to spin in his grave.
7 is totally different. That's one of the it's one of the narrowest holes on the golf course, if not the narrowest. At that length, the trees they have added on both sides makes it very interesting.You see, that strategy stuff, that those "so-called" Golden Age architects practiced? Who has time for that!?
No. 11 is extremely long. By shifting the fairway over to the left, it adds to the length and now it's a little bit of a dog leg.
Q. Do you agree with the changes and why or why not?
TIGER WOODS: Not necessarily. I didn't think you need to mess with 4. I thought 4 was one of the cool holes as it was. It was pretty tough, and you know, I thought it was fine just the way it was. I thought 7 was a great risk/reward hole where you could hit driver, you could hit fairway wood or even iron off the tee, depending on what you feel like you could do. You can try and drive it on the upslope where you had an advantage to be able to spin the golf ball. But then again, it narrows up way down there. It's the narrowest tee shot down there if you decide to hit driver down there. Now you're hitting driver, where usually we're hitting 3 woods or 2 iron. Playing totally different now.
Q. How much of a factor will the narrowness of the trees be?
TIGER WOODS: It's a big factor because they have made a concerted effort to make driving part of the game. Here I always thought that you could get some angles to some of the pins and now those angles have been taken away from you. It doesn't make any sense to try to put yourself in those positions now, because if you did, you would be either in the trees or in that new second cut. So it's totally different.
Q. Just 7 and 11?
TIGER WOODS: Well, 9, 1, 2. You name it, there's a bunch of holes like that; 17, 18.
So much for options.
Q. Some players are saying that the course changes have played right into your hands, there's only a dozen or so players who can win here this week; would you agree with that?
TIGER WOODS: I certainly agree that it's narrowed up the field a little bit. Seeing some of the guys at their length, they have what they have to hit into some of the holes, they are having a hard time holding greens. So some of the shorter hitters are definitely going to struggle.
And you are thinking, okay, here comes the follow up, is that a good thing for the Masters?
Q. David Duval is a great buddy of yours, are you secretly pulling for him? I know you want to win but are you pulling for him deep down and what's the progress on his game?
Q. How much aspirations do you have toward golf architecture and if so, what sort of what would be the characteristics of the course you would design?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I certainly would love to get into course design. That's something that I'm looking forward to in the future.
I think some of the greats golf courses in the world are right down there in Melbourne, that sand belt. I absolutely love the face of the bunkers and the shape of the greens. I think that's how the game should be played. I just enjoy that type of golf to me. I don't enjoy elephant burial grounds out there.
Q. How long would your course be?
TIGER WOODS: Depends, actually what the people there want it. It's up to them and my job and my responsibility is to provide a product that suits their needs.
If I were paying $10 million for Tiger, I'd want him to do what he thinks is best. Right?
Q. Players used to shape shots before and now they carry two drivers. What do you think of the technology?
TIGER WOODS: The faces have become faster and the balls have become less spiny and all that means is that you can't shape the ball anymore because you need spin to shape shots. With that, it's hard to maneuver the golf ball. You have to change your plane a lot to make the ball move either way. It's totally different because the ball used to go out there and if you hit a draw, you used to go out there and fall left, now it draws early and it straightens out. So it's certainly changed.
Guys, even some of the more powerful players, have put in 5 woods or 7 woods because it's hard to get the ball in the air with a 2 iron or 1 iron. A 1 iron is obsolete now and 2 iron is kind of headed that way.
Back to the butchery at No. 11:
Q. What about No. 11, you haven't said anything about that.
TIGER WOODS: Yes, it's a tough hole now. It's 505 yards.
Q. Par 5.
TIGER WOODS: It's a short par 5, yeah. As I said, what makes it longer is because now the fairway is being shifted over to the left, which makes it a dog leg and just adds a little bit of extra length. If they would have kept it straight ahead, then it would have played a little bit shorter. But now moving the fairway to the left, it makes it a little bit harder.
Q. Not that this will happen, but if Hootie Johnson were to ask you about the changes, which ones you think were the biggest mistakes, what without him (laughter)?
TIGER WOODS: Is Hootie listening to this? (Laughter) I think Hootie would probably say we're going to have a private conversation. I'm just going to say, leave it at that. I want to be invited back (laughter).
And finally, for the question of the day, maybe the year...
Q. What would you name a son?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. That's a good question. I don't know. Honestly, I couldn't tell you.