Unnecessary Brutality

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Warning for Vinnie: This is in fact a golf post. That said, it is a much more relevant sport to America than soccer and therefore can occupy one spot on our blog.

Apparently, the Masters has decided to take a cue from the U.S. Open and enjoys humiliating world class golfers to appease Old Man Par. What they have done is ruined the most enjoyable golf tournament by making it almost painful to watch. Like a Big Ten basketball game, my appreciation of the sport will keep me tuned in even if the overall play may be less than stellar. However, if I want to watch golfers scrambling all over the course and watching good shots turn out horribly, I'll take a trip to my local country club. What I want to watch is quality golf, with deserving shots meriting birdies and the occasional eagles. After Tiger shot a combined 35 under in 1998 and 2001, the members at Augusta National decided to fight back, lengthening the course to more than 7,400 and making the rough more penal. In short, they decided to "Tiger-Proof" it.

By making the course ridiculously long, they have made it nearly impossible to keep good shots on the green. The greens have always been insanely fast, but in the past golfers would have a fighting chance to hit a shot close because they would be using short enough clubs to allow them to control the ball. When you are hitting a 200 yard 4-iron into a fast green, the ball stands little chance of getting close barring a lucky bounce along the way. All of this has led to golfers scrambling for par like a U.S. Open, a goal I have long criticized the USGA for.

While technology allows golfers to hit the ball 20-30 yards further than years past, adding length to a course is not necessarily the answer. Especially at a course like Augusta National, the greens are not meant to hold long iron shots. A much better solution would be to decrease the width of fairways, putting a premium of driving the ball straight. While guys like Tiger and Phil Mickelson can hit the ball a mile, they often struggle with wayward tee shots. This could fairly punish them, while keeping the integrity of the golf course intact.

No, I do not want to see the Masters become the John Deere Classic where 25 under wins. What I want to see is what happened in years past: exciting birdies and eagles and the ability to make a back nine charge. The Masters looks to have lost some of the luster that set it apart from other majors. I hope the members at Augusta National work to rectify the situation in future years.

10 comments:

Vinnie 10:10 PM  

Actually, I find this pretty interesting. At its core, this isn't so much a golf post as it is a physics post. I'd have to mull it over some more, but it seems to me that making the greens so hard to hit, you're leaving the outcome of an individual hole too much to chance. Sure, over the course of a tourney, good golfers will hit more greens, but the pattern of greens hit will be more erratic.

People like watching golf (people who aren't like me, that is) in part for those big shots, where they sense that the golfer has it in his control to nail the green in a huge situation. When you leave that outcome to overwhelming chance, you really take away the luster of those situations.

I like your idea with the fairways. A missed fairway is further removed from the outcome of a hole, and its effect has an inherent correctability. Instead of "oh shit, I'm chipping from the rough instead of being on the green," it's "oh damn, I've gotta make two really good shots now instead of just two normally good shots."

Vinnie 10:22 PM  

And by the way, I believe any self-imposed restrictions on subject matter went out the window when I started posting on alternative music and cup-stacking. I think I speak for everyone when I say, fire away with those golf posts anytime you want.

Nathan 12:00 PM  

I haven't watched much of the Masters yet, (I normally only tune in on the last day) but I was wondering what was up with the high scores. And now I know. Thanks Zuch.

scraphoops 12:11 AM  

I don't really have a problem with the length. I think the major problem with all of the majors (huh)(except possibly the British Open) are the greens. They are ridiculously hard. If you have watched the majors for the last few years you know if you miss a putt it is going to roll at least 5 feet past the hole. I've seen interviews where golfers basically admitted to Nancying a putt just so they had an easy second. Not going after the hole at all. Most of the top players don't do this so their scores are all over the place. The Masters this year is about the worst I've ever seen. The high scores are not due to the length but to the crazy hardness of the greens. I bet as soon as the tournament is over they turn on the sprinklers full blast so the members can have nice soft greens Monday

Mike 9:24 AM  

Good insight. I'm in kind of the same boat as Nate and was wondering that myself.

And I'll ignore the soccer quip if we can compare TV ratings between the final round of the 2007 Masters and the final of the 2006 World Cup.*

*= recognizing this is a totally unfair comparison.

Nathan 11:11 AM  

After yesterday's (Saturday) rounds, I don't think you can argue with the greens being the problem. The cold, dry weather certainly isn't helping. It's going to come down to 10-foot par shots to see who's going home with a new jacket (with a final score of +3)...and that's why Tiger is going to win easily. He's the best putter there and can actually go after holes aggressively because of his accuracy.

Nathan 11:13 AM  

Also, man, it sucks to be Stuart Appleby right now.

Matt Zuchowski 7:51 PM  

At least we got an entertaining Sunday of golf with good shots being mostly rewarded.

Yes, in some cases the greens are overdone, but it has always has been that way at the Masters. What happened this year is guys were hitting from too far back to be able to control their shots. Since the announcers have been trumpeting this as Augusta finally playing like the changes intended it to, I am inclined to place my blame on that. It's not the only factor, but IMO it's the most prevalent.

Mike 9:09 PM  

I may not know much about golf course layouts (read "much" to mean "anything"), but if the goal was to Tiger-proof the course, and he was still in contention on the final day, it seems to have failed in its purpose.

PS: Who the hell is Zach Johnson?

Matt Zuchowski 2:10 AM  

That's the irony about it Mike. A lot of the time, "Tiger proofing" means making the course much longer and tougher, which really favors Tiger because of his length and ability to grind out pars and the occasional birdie far better than anyone out on tour. On the whole, a major impact of Tiger on golf has been to make courses much longer, which favors the long hitters and hurts guys who may have more complete games(like consistently hitting the fairway, but being 40 yards shorter off the tee than the longer hitters). However, since this helps the two most popular guys in golf, Tiger and Phil, you rarely hear this brought up outside the occasional Golf Channel program.

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