No other major golf tournament has the history and traditions of the Masters. The Augusta National members go to extreme lengths to preserve the traditions that started in 1934. No other major is played on the same course each year. This is the seventy third edition of the Masters. The course with the next highest major total is St. Andrews with twenty seven. All the players, past and present certainly agree that Augusta National is a special place. We can easily understand why a Masters Champion would feel this way, but this course has a magical effect on all that walk its fairways. We need to look no further then Greg Norman. No other player has felt the heartbreak that Norman has at Augusta. He has suffered some of the most gut wrenching losses in golf history. With a little bit of better luck, a different bounce and a different break of a putt, Norman might have three Masters Championships. Instead, he left with a broken heart. One could understand if Norman declined the invitation to Augusta he earned with his Open Championship finish last year, but he decided to play the Masters one more time. That is the effect this place has on golfers. They spend years trying to get in their first Masters and make it a goal each year to return. The players cite the course, the history, the traditions and the way the tournament is run as the reasons why they respect this place.
It is truly confusing as to how a place so steeped in tradition shows no respect for the tradition of the golf course itself. The members have made so many changes to the course recently that if it wasn’t for the magnolias and azaleas Bobby Jones would not recognize the place. The effort to “Tiger Proof” or “protect the course” or “preserve par” or even “keep up with technology”, whatever the term used, has not made the course any better. It has just made it different. If the idea was to stop the long hitters from dominating the Masters it has not worked. Since 2000, six of the nine Masters have been won by long ball hitters; Singh, Woods (3), Mickelson (2) have claimed six of the last nine Masters. The other three were won by shorter hitters, Weir, Johnson and Immelman, that used their wedges and irons to gain their advantage.
The highly skilled long hitters like Woods and Mickelson will win on any length course with any type of rough or hazards. It is the majority of other players that have been penalized. The landing areas have been narrowed and trees and rough sit on places where Jones and Mackenzie had envisioned golfers landing their shots to take advantage of the angles to the greens. If you listen to Woods, Norman, Nicklaus, Palmer and Player they have been saying that the character has been removed from the course. No longer can someone charge down the back nine looking for eagles and birdies. They have to try and play for par and hope the field falls back. That was not the brand of golf Jones had in mind when he took this land and turned it into the most revered golf course in America.
The course that Hogan, Snead, Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Watson, Ballesteros and Faldo won on is gone. Wouldn’t it be grand if today’s golfer played a course that was similar to the layout those legends played? I would imagine there may be a few Augusta members that may like to do that also.
So it’s time for the Augusta Members to take action to go “Old School”. Put the tees back where they were, cut down that rough (second cut), get rid of those trees that spring up over night and bring the course back to the old dimensions that Jones loved so much. If today’s players can rack up some birdies and a couple of eagles, so be it! Isn’t that what Sarazen and Snead and Palmer and Nicklaus did? There is nothing wrong with birdie. Let the players of today play the course as the legends of golf played it. Maybe they will make a little history of their own.