I know that something had to be done after Tiger Woods shot 66-65 on Friday and Saturday during that crazy Masters in 1997. I know that as the balls and clubs advanced, Augusta National had to take that step into another generation of length and competitiveness. I know all of these things are true, but I still long for the days of the pre-pubescent Augusta. I loved the 6,900 yards rolling green grass, with no fairway interrupted by a nasty “second cut.” I loved the fact that I was watching the MASTERS, not guys sweating and grinding over a four-foot par putt during a tough U.S. Open. July brings the Shinnecocks and the Winged Foots, the Bethpage Blacks and the tough Pebble Beach. April brought the greenest of green, and we’re not even talking about the jacket.
In 1997 Skinny Tiger shot a four-over 40 on the front nine of his first professional Masters. As the story goes, he followed it up with a 6-under 30 and has still never looked back. Today, Tiger (as he seems to always do) struggled with the front nine during the first round, and followed that up with a quivering even-par 36 that looked more Brick Layer than Beethoven. I know that the U.S. Open is the supposed to be the “toughest test in golf,” but who was the last ho-hum champion in Georgia? Since 1990, Augusta National has produced victories by Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Ben Crenshaw, Mark O’Meara, Vijah Singh and Mike Weir. In that time frame, Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Faldo, Phil Mickelson and Woods have won it multiple times. Compare that to the United States Open champions of the same time frame. You find names on the list like Corey Pavin, Steve Jones and Michael Campbell.
The Masters is the true test of golf. It is what kids spend hours on the putting green thinking about. It is the only golf tournament that every golf fan knows everything about (quick, what holes are Amen Corner?),
Toughening Augusta National hasn’t done anything except eliminate a re-creation of an event like 1986 (the best Masters EVER) and raise the winning score a few shots here and there. People contest that the length has scaled the real winners down to just a baker’s dozen, but isn’t that what it’s always been? No B.C. Open golfer is going to have a chance without his absolute best and that still probably won’t allow you choice at the 2008 Champions Dinner. All the yards have done is take the birdies and eagles out of the equation and added par as a premium. Does nobody else agree that we have enough of that already? Augusta National and the Masters should be about two colors – red numbers leading to green jackets.