What's great about day like Friday at Augusta? It separates the men from the boys.
I'm talking about the writers.
It's fun to see who really appreciates the nuance and quality of golf versus those who seem to merely enjoy watching players struggle.
But before that discussion, let's get the meat and potatoes stuff out of the way.
Scott Michaux talks to Dr. Ed Bailey who has been to every Masters and was on 17 when Gene Sarazen hit the shot heard round the world. He turned to see the reaction of Sarazen over on 15. Of course today, his view would be blocked out by the recently planted pines.
Lawrence Donegan has the best line of the day in his Guardian lede: "As sporting drama goes, this was a bit like Laurence Olivier being acted off the stage by the grave diggers." And:
There is no disguising the fact that radical changes to Augusta in recent times, coupled with the bone hard conditions of this week, have turned Alister Mackenzie's ageless masterpiece into a brute . Some, like Woods, used diplomatic language when asked for their opinions ("It's a totally different course...[with ] about 500 extra yards, a billion trees and rough ")
James Corrigan featured this epic quote from Lee Westwood:
"Do I like this place? Not really, not any more," said the Englishman, who had just been desperately trying to make up for his first-round 79. "It just asks too many questions that there are no answers to. It used to be a shotmaker's course but now I don't think it is. When it was shorter, more of us would have had an answer, but now there are only six or seven people in the field that can win. It's not the type of golf I want to play." play."
Unfortunately that kind of "attitude" sets off some writers, and Golf Digest's Ron Sirak represents the "they all have to play it" set with this head scratcher.
The thing to remember about Augusta National is that they can make this golf course really difficult without tricking it up. First off, it is an architectural masterpiece -- no matter what you think of the renovations over the past five years. The fairways are seductively wide and the greens are misleading large. The fact is there is only about a third of the fairway on each hole you want to use, and only about a quarter of each green. As Nick Faldo said back when he was winning three green jackets, "There is a route around this place. You just have to find it and follow it."
Uhm, but the see that's the problem. That was true back when Faldo was winning those jackets. The routes have since been closed off with trees and rough.
The point is this: No matter what the conditions, quit whining and adapt to them. Everyone is playing the same course. What could be more fair than that?
Well, everyone had to sit through the same Oscar ceremony to find out who won. That didn't make it a good show.
And I know I'm not supposed to pick on my elders, but Furman Bisher files one of those pieces that I'm sad to say reminds you that he never had to play skilled golf in front of millions on a tricked-up course:
These are changing times at Augusta National, beyond the invigorated presence of Billy Payne. The man who sets up the course is straight out of the USGA mold. Fred Ridley, former U.S. amateur champion, former USGA president, is in his first year as chairman of the Competition Committee, previously occupied by Will Nicholson, who retired. This is Ridley’s first show, and maybe it’s a spinoff of the old USGA policy: “Give ‘em hell.”
It’s OK with the rest of us. Not that we like to see grown men suffer, but it does endear these old acres to us to see them sweat and cuss, and come off the course looking as if they have just seen a UFO.
Yeah, real enduring.
I missed Chip Alexander in the News Observer talking to Tom Fazio yesterday:
Golf architect Tom Fazio, who oversaw the redesign of the course, noted there has been no rain this week -- a rarity the past 10 years, when there often have been storms and rain delays. Augusta National, he said, again was the golf test that Masters founder Bobby Jones intended it to be, with a premium on ball placement off the tee, wise club selection and sound course management.
"Everyone certainly was hoping to see it this way," Fazio said. "It's like a new golf course, because of the speed.
"It's a major. It's a major major."
Thanks to reader Graeme for this Robert Lusetich piece in The Australian, which sums up the plight at hand:
For veterans of this rite of the northern spring, yesterday was different because it lacked the echoing roars of the galleries celebrating birdies.
"Strangely quiet," said Howell.
Whether they return will be in the hands of the ultimate authority here, first-year Masters chairman Billy Payne, who has to decide what kind of history he wants to make.
Meanwhile Lorne Rubenstein gets more specific and criticizes the 15th hole's lack of drama.
Much of the confusion is gone because the hole was lengthened last year to 530 yards from 500. Too many players lay up now, which accounts for the much quieter environment among spectators in the area. They, and the golfers, used to hold their collective breath while a ball was in the air. What was its fate? The hole has almost turned into a par-3 because the tee shot and the lay-up have become routine. The third shot matters the most now, not the second.