It’s a short list, but here’s what Augusta National gets wrong
MASTERS week stirs emotions in golfers unlike any other seven-day stretch on the calendar.
For so long the allure from an Australian perspective was the hoodoo that engulfed our golfers for seemingly eternity. Even though that drought has now ended, we still love the Masters if for no other reason that it’s been eight months since the most recent Major. And for northern hemisphere residents, the tournament signals the start of the golf season after months of seeing snow covering their beloved tracks.
Yet, contrary to what you might think, not every aspect of Masters week runs optimally. Here are seven things the green-jacketed folk at Augusta should fix:
1. The gates don’t open early enough. Jason Day once lamented this, saying that not enough fans, err, ‘patrons’ have the chance to get inside the property, pass through security and get into position for when the first groups tee off.
2. They mess with the grass. In order to minimise roll, fairways are cut towards the tee so the grass points that way, but such a practice isn’t necessary around the greens. Count Adam Scott among those players who’d like to see a different approach to greenside mowing. “There’s only one thing I would change about the Masters and the golf course set-up at Augusta National,” says our nation’s lone Masters champion. “I wish they wouldn’t always mow the grass from the greens towards the tees. It would be nice if the grass wasn’t facing into us all the time as that makes chipping more problematic and limits our options around the greens because bump-and-run shots are no longer an option.”
3. More low-angle camera shots. OK, so this is true of all golf tournaments, but Augusta’s dramatic landforms make this mistake more egregious in the first full week of April. Those camera towers and overhead shots are high on detail but low on subtlety and tend to flatten the terrain’s appearance. The cliché is true: you have no idea how hilly that golf course is until you set foot upon it, but more ground-level shots would at least give TV viewers a better idea of the contours.
4. The winners of the two-man Zurich Classic of New Orleans should be afforded the same direct entry into the field afforded to all other winners of full-field US PGA Tour events. I have no issue with the Sanderson Farms Championship winner missing out while the ‘real’ golfers are in China, for instance, but if the Zurich is being called an official event and the victory classed as official for the two winners, they should receive the same perks. Australia’s Cameron Smith and his equally victorious playing partner Jonas Blixt ought to have spent the past 11 months knowing their Masters invitations were in the post.
5. For those working in the media, the ban on mobile phones is archaic and inhibitive. I have no problem with patrons being denied access to them on-course, but when your phone is also your note-taker and interview recorder, it sends many an unsuspecting journo scurrying to the nearest electronics store for a recording device each Masters week. By all means put in place a zero-tolerance policy and turf out anyone who forgets to switch their phone to silent outside the media centre, but also let us do our jobs the way we do every other week of the year.
6. The tournament ends too late, making the timings dicey when a playoff is required. Five years ago, Scott and Angel Cabrera did not have enough light to hit another shot had a third playoff hole been required. I know it’s all about prime-time television audiences and Augusta’s relationship with CBS Television is as old as the towering pines lining the fairways. But one of these days, a Masters champion will experience his crowning moment on a drama-less Monday morning watched by about 15 observers, three trash-handlers and a scoreboard operator.
7. And, on the subject of overtime, Masters playoffs should adopt the British Open’s format of four extra holes of aggregate strokeplay. Holes 10 to 13 at Augusta rank among the greatest four-hole stretches in world golf. How captivating would playoffs across that quartet be?
This might sound like picking holes in “Citizen Kane” or identifying imperfections on the Mona Lisa but much like the players’ highly tuned games, there is still room for improvement at Augusta.