The decision to start at 10:40 yesterday earned some tough love from the Jeff Schultz Atlanta Journal Constitution and Scott Michaux in the Augusta Chronicle.
But some of Saturday's scramble and today's cram session easily could have been avoided. Rain had been forecast for days. By the time the second round ended Friday, it was a foregone conclusion that the next 18 holes were going to be wet, with the possibility of scattered thunderstorms all day. (The AJC even put this tidbit in the sports section, and normally spring football takes up the entire news hole.)
But Masters officials didn't adjust. They didn't start the field early. They didn't split the field and start half on the back nine. They looked at the same weather map as everybody else, and did nothing.
And from Michaux:
With just a little bit of foresight and a little common sense, the third round of the Masters would have been nearly completed as scheduled Saturday.
Neither element was executed.
Augusta National clearly can't control the weather, but it can do just about anything else it wants. With the preponderance of evidence suggesting that Saturday would be marred by foul weather, there should have been no reason for Masters officials not to have decided Friday night to tee off earlier and send players off both sides to work in as much golf as possible Saturday.
"They don't mess around and make a lot of bad decisions here," Mediate, who faces 32 holes today, said during the 4-hour, 18-minute rain delay.
They made a bad decision this time, and it was an unforced error despite a wealth of recent experience with poor weather.
There is no other sports property in the world that is less beholden to TV than the Masters. That's why, twice in the past five years, the Masters went off an hour earlier on Sundays because of potential bad weather that never materialized. That is one of the things that distinguishes the Masters from the other majors.
Ratings might matter to the network, but they don't matter to the golf club. If the final round coverage draws a 4.2 or a 14.2 share, CBS still will broadcast next year and the limited advertising still will include the same sponsors at the same rates.
Why, then, couldn't Augusta National have decided to start earlier Saturday and show whatever happened on a mix of tape delay and live coverage? If they had, most of the field would have finished and only a few players would have a few holes left this morning.
That would have leveled the playing field instead of the leaders facing anywhere from 27 to 32 holes today.
Every decision should be made in the best interests of the tournament and not television. We've always thought the Masters was better than that.