The 2008 Masters – John Huggan agrees, Tom Fazio Open-ized Augusta

John Huggan, my GolfObserver.com colleague from across the pond had some interesting analyses about how when scoring heads south in majors, so does the excitement. From the article:

With longer grass – a ‘second cut’ in Masters-speak – bordering many of the fairways and the installation of overly-intrusive trees on holes formerly famed for their strategic interest and integrity, the roller-coaster ride that was Augusta National became a not-so magic roundabout. Where players used to be tempted into shots they may have been better off leaving alone – thereby creating the aforementioned excitement – the final day was marked only by the sameness of the way in which almost every competitor played almost every hole. The typical tedium of a typically rough-covered US Open wasn’t quite replicated, but it was close.

“What made the Masters the tournament that it (usually) is, was all the drama, all the eagles and all the double bogeys and all the birdies and all the crazy stuff that happens, usually on Sunday,” confirms former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, who tied for twenty-fourth in ‘07. “If they lose that like they did last year they will have to look at what they are doing with the golf course. Last year the place was dead quiet; there were no roars at all. If that is repeated in better weather next week, they will surely have to take action.”

Tom Fazio, consulting architect to Augusta National, went even further: “Why would we redesign a course for a game nobody plays anymore?” he raved. “Nobody hits fades or draws to certain spots in a fairway. They bomb it. They hit it very long, they hit it very straight.”

Good grief. In other words, ‘no one plays the angles at Augusta National anymore so let’s capitulate completely and get rid of them by growing rough in the spots where ideal tee-shots used to finish.’ This is nothing short of a golfing tragedy, folks, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Ben Crenshaw, for one, has been similarly lamenting the changes.

“There was something regal about the place without rough,” contends the two-time Master golfer, himself a noted course architect, one responsible for some of the 21st century’s more interesting and fun designs. “It stood the test of time and separated itself from all others because it was different.”

Not any more. Quite apart from the fact that both Fazio’s and the club’s views inadvertently offer the most damning condemnations of the technological nightmare that has all but killed off shot making at the highest level of the game over the last dozen years or so – the modern ball does indeed go too far and too straight when struck by the leading professionals – it is hard to imagine a more depressing scenario…

Tom Fazio also had some interesting comments in my Masters preview piece, which will be up soon at PGA.com with more in the Cybergolf article. In the meantime, you’ll see I said exactly the same thi8ng Huggan said right here at last year’s U.S. Open preview and in my Masters wrap up.

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Jay Flemma

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