Friday, April 25, 2008

More Defense of Augusta National

Because I like to present all sides (and then try to discredit the ones I disagree with), Bob Carney over at Golf Digest has a retort for all of the media saying that the new Augusta is a dud.

Before I talk about the text of the post, I want to mention that I do agree with the premise that the media has been very quick to bandwagon to the notion that the new Augusta is not very good. It took a few years of wind and relative cold to make it happen, but all of a sudden, the media is not a fan of the National. I don't know that every media member took their critical eye to the course design or the numbers behind the championship, but they seem to have made their minds. To the point that this seems sheep-like, I can understand.

Now, to the points Carney makes about Augusta.

First, he quotes David Barrett over at Golf Observer in his round up speaking of the scoring conditions in the first three rounds of the event. He's right, the scoring appeared decent. In the first three rounds, among the players that qualified for weekend play, scoring hovered right around even par. In fact, on Friday, the guys who made the cut averaged about a half shot under par going through the National.

But, then on Sunday, scoring turned ugly and the players averaged more than 2.5 shots over par for their round. All because of some wind? Really? If wind is all it takes to make Augusta National three shots harder - just on the average - then I'm pretty sure that is a problem. The players themselves referenced that several of the tees were moved up on Sunday to keep scoring reasonable. Yes, there were some periods of heavy wind in the 20 mph range, but not consistently for 5 hours per round. (Nevermind that playing a twosome in 5 hours is absurd.) To say that wind was the only reason for the sour grapes about a boring Sunday is a cop out.

Then, he turns to a piece by Doug Ferguson that I quoted in a post yesterday. This was a paragraph that I don't think I quoted:

One final thought: Woods missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the 13th, failed to get up-and-down for birdie on the 15th (not the easiest chip), missed a 12-foot birdie on the 16th and three-putted for bogey on the 14th. Convert all those and he shoots 68, coming from six shots behind to the win his fifth green jacket.
Maybe we should add in that he didn't hole out for par on 4, or that he didn't convert on 8. I mean, had Woods played to his maximum potential, he could have shot 65. That's potential though. Standing on the first tee, that score was not out there. Only 68 was, and only 1 guy did it on Sunday - Miguel Angel Jimenez, and that was because he played before the wind supposedly ruined the course.

The best score of the week was only 1 better in what would be considered pristine conditions for scoring. On the old Augusta, that could have translated easily into a handful or more of scores ranging from 65-67. We had one 67 all week. That is not the Masters.

(I could leverage data from 2007 to make things look even worse. The course played about +2 for three rounds last year for the players that made the cut, and to +6 on that brutal Saturday. The only reason the course played to +2 on Sunday in 2007 was because Augusta brought the course back from the brink of unplayability with their maintenance and overnight work. The best score recorded was 68 on Friday.)

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