Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Should We Blame Masters Boredom on the Weather?

I still contend that Augusta National has been altered by Tom Fazio to the point that it is unrecognizable to a fan that has been asleep since 1997. I also still contend that the redesign efforts have caused players to become more defensive in their style of play - hence the greater opportunity for shorter (not short) hitters to contend with good wedge play. But, in each of the last two years, the brutal Sundays that the players have experienced definitely have coincided with relatively cool and windy conditions. Could that have been the primary reason why there were so few roars and so many high scores? (Yes, that rhymed.)

Like I have said, I think the new Augusta puts players on the defensive by default. It is long, very fast, and much more penal than it used to be off the tee with the second cut and more trees to prescribes angles. It would only seem reasonable, then, that they would not have much bravado to start. Throw in some horrible weather conditions, and there was little chance for fireworks because players had to be extra cautious - and they still got squashed by the National.

It would be difficult, though, to call this a trend. I have felt for several years that Augusta National just is not the same anymore - dating back to 2006. But, in the two years prior - 2004 and 2005 - Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods made fantastic charges on Sunday that are new chapters in Masters lore.

In essence, we have 3 years of data to show that there has not really been a traditional "Sunday charge" filled with birdies and eagles. The charge in the last three years has been pars and a few sprinkled birdies. By comparison, Woods' 72 was the best of the contenders by a longshot. Should that be considered a Sunday charge - mediocrity while the rest of the field flounders? I don't think so, but ANGC seems perfectly happy with that kind of relativism.

We will still need a few more years to see if this version of Augusta is here to stay. After all, 2004 and 2005 were years in which the course was wet and accessible all four days. When the course's natural defenses are weakened by weather, the old Augusta is possible. If that does not happen, though, the fan is left watching the equivalent of a US Open style fight for survival. Does that mean, then, that every year is a roll of the dice as to how exciting the tournament will be?

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