April 02, 2006

Legends of the game are perplexed: Has Augusta National gone too far this time? Very quickly, the rage became "Tiger-proofing" golf courses by stretching holes so much that not even he could overpower par 5s. It's still dawning on tournaments that by outsizing their courses, they in fact play into Woods' hands, plus a handful of the other long bombers.

Nicklaus: "I think they've ruined it from a tournament standpoint..."

posted by justgary to golf at 03:48 PM - 21 comments

Didn't they 'Tiger-proof' Valderrama in Spain a few years ago for the Ryder Cup? Only there they did it by narrowing the fairways, introducing more dog legs, and taking length off the tee out of the game. And it worked.

posted by owlhouse at 06:11 PM on April 02, 2006

Can someone please tell me why it's a bad thing for Tiger to win a golf tournament? I was of the opinion that best golfer should win any tournament regardless of who he is or whatever tournament is being played. How come they don't "Lefty Proof", or "Retief Proof" any courses?????

posted by jknemo at 06:52 PM on April 02, 2006

I don't think it's about Tiger. He's just seen as symptomatic of all that's wrong with modern golf and the obsession with new technology. It's about a number of things running in parallel: - trying to limit the effect of advances in club and ball manufacture, which have added tens of metres to the length of shots - the old power versus skill debate, putting length up against course management, or (more simply) brawn against brains Naturally, things aren't quite that simple in real life, and there are more complex motivations at work. Equipment manufacturers, TV networks and 'old timers' at your local club all have an opinion.

posted by owlhouse at 07:13 PM on April 02, 2006

I agree with owlhouse in that it isn't really "Tiger proofing" as it is matching the new technology. As new clubs, balls, ect. come out, the courses will become easier and easier. In order to combat that, the courses have to be made more difficult. They just have to be careful so they don't tailor their courses to be difficult for the very best, instead of the majority of the PGA. If they do that it could result in only a few dominant golfers, while everyone else lags behind.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 07:44 PM on April 02, 2006

Jack is correct. It has been ruined from a tournament standpoint. When people say this is the only Major played on the same course every year, they are wrong. The course has changed almost every year since it's inception for the tournament. In the past the original spirit of the design was maintained or enhanced. In recent years they have turned it into a US Open style course. This does play into Tiger's hands. The argument is old, but worth making again. The longer players are able to hit shorter irons into the greens from the newly grown rough. This is not US Open type rough either, the players have more control of the shots, they rarely have to play sideways as they do in the Open. The committee at Augusta have taken away the numerous options that used to exist. I will still watch and probably enjoy the tournament. I hope they are willing to make changes back to the spirit of the original layout, to bring some of the excitement back to the Masters. In the past there was a chance for a whole number of players to make a comeback and win the tournament. There are now a limited number of players who can win. They used to say the Masters doesn't start until the back nine on Sunday. That is no longer the case.

posted by chuck'n'duck at 07:50 PM on April 02, 2006

My wishlist; All golfers use the same clubs the same balls, so as to take the focus off the equipment and put the focus where it belongs, on the player. And while we're at it why not put windmills and clown faces on the greens too.

posted by jknemo at 08:17 PM on April 02, 2006

Jack is correct. It has been ruined from a tournament standpoint. I think such a comment (from Nicklaus or chuck'n'duck) cannot really be backed up until we see a tournament played on it. bring some of the excitement back to the Masters... They used to say the Masters doesn't start until the back nine on Sunday. That is no longer the case. What Masters have you been watching recently? Last year, Woods beat DiMarco in a playoff with both of them going at each other hammer and tongs for the whole of the back nine (and Woods holing that chip on 16). The year before, the tournament was won with a birdie on the final hole from a player in the final group for only the fourth time ever (Mickelson joined Palmer '60, Lyle '88 and O'Meara '98), and that after Mickelson blitzed the back nine to come through the field. In 2003, no one in the top four shot worse than 68 in the final round and Len Mattiace shot 65 to get into a playoff. 2002 comes closest to confirming what you said - no one in the top ten at the end had shot better than 70 on Sunday and Tiger lead with ease all the way through. In 2001, Woods won also, but in doing so he had to fend off Duval (who shot 67), Mickelson (who shot 70) and Els (who bottled it and shot 72). I'm not out and out disagreeing with Nicklaus and Palmer and... well, everyone else except Hootie - I'm just saying let's wait and see how the tournament pans out before we say they've ruined it. jknemo - the problem with converting everyone to the same equipment is that, paradoxically, it wouldn't make it the same for everyone. Even if they just changed the ball - a ball that would reduce Darren Clarke's tee shots by 30% might reduce another player's tee shots by only 10%, and another's by even less (or more).

posted by JJ at 07:30 AM on April 03, 2006

Let's not forget that Jack was the Tiger of his day. He always held an advantage because of his length. Also, while Tiger is the one you hear about, other guys are constantly hitting it as long as Tiger.

posted by nowandthen at 10:37 AM on April 03, 2006

Let's not forget that Jack was the Tiger of his day. He always held an advantage because of his length. That's right, and tournaments didn't go around "Jack-proofing" their courses. Also, while Tiger is the one you hear about, other guys are constantly hitting it as long as Tiger. Also correct. Tiger is the one that's focused on because of everything he has done in and for golf. When another highly dominant player comes along and Tiger is no longer the "face" of the PGA, are the courses going to try to change to make it more difficult for that particular player, too?

posted by Rino23 at 11:05 AM on April 03, 2006

Also, while Tiger is the one you hear about, other guys are constantly hitting it as far as Tiger. Very true. I don't think the members at Augusta are changing the course to make it "Tiger-Proof", I think it is in response to the outlandish distances ALL pros are hitting it these days. The course as originaly set up by MacKenzie and Jones featured risk/reward par 5's that were reachable, yes, but not with short irons. (Tiger has hit wedge second shots to 15 for crying out loud!) The approach shots to the par 4's have become much shorter too. However, in their attempt to sustain "shot value" and "protect par", I fear the members are changing the course from what Bobby Jones meant it to be, into a course fit only for the best players in the world. Not that us hacks will ever play it, but it was nice to hear of the occasional low handicapper making a visit (John Smoltz comes to mind) and posting a decent score. One only has to look at driving distance stats for the last 15 years to see that everyone (amateurs included) is hitting the ball much further, and some response is necessary, although i do not know if theirs is the right one. Time will tell I suppose.

posted by mjkredliner at 12:37 PM on April 03, 2006

as always he can't win them all I'm a tiger fan and over the last few years he has proven he's human he is not a superman golfer how do you tiger proof a golf course by making it longer you still have to putt it in on the green go john daly

posted by luther70 at 01:08 PM on April 03, 2006

This is not the first time the Masters has been played on a modified course. The changes over time have affected the tournament and IMO have made it worse. There is less charm involved. I believe Mr. Nicklaus agrees. I didn't address the equipment issue in my original post. This is dangerous territory. The technology is changing the game and making some courses look like pitch'n'putts. This is not good. Until the governing bodies of the sport, the USGA and the R&A, take a stand on equipment this will not change. Yes, some modifications are necessary to courses to test the players. I think ANGC has not made the proper changes and/or made changes in the spirit of the original design. JJ- I agree there have been some exciting Masters in the past couple of years. However, my recollections of the Masters past are those where a larger number of the field had the chance to win, especially with a charge on Sunday.

posted by chuck'n'duck at 01:50 PM on April 03, 2006

go out and measure how far tiger is going to hit it and put a series of those British bunkers out thjere and don't tell him they are there...maybe give him a bye and let him play the top ten finishers with him playing the field...that would be challenge...it is still too easy...leave him alone and don't get him mad

posted by lshlarry at 02:14 PM on April 03, 2006

chuck'n'duck - I'm not sure I'm following what you mean - can you give me an example of one you remember specifically as being really tops? Just by the way, I've been rummaging about on the Masters website a bit today. Look who shot 68 on Sunday to finish sixth (two shots ahead of Tiger) in 1998 when O'Meara won it! I'd totally forgotten he did that.

posted by JJ at 05:36 PM on April 03, 2006

JJ- It seems to me that in the mid-80's through the early 90's there was a lot more drama. With as many as five or six guys having the chance to win late on Sunday. Obviously the 86 Masters with Jack winning; many others had the chance but didn't grab it and Jack won #6. 85 Strange and Ballesteros faltering down the stretch. Basically, 85 to 91 was a great run in exciting finishes. I hope that clarifies things for you.

posted by chuck'n'duck at 06:27 PM on April 03, 2006

both of them going at each other hammer and tongs Hmm. <SPOILER_ALERT class="nerdly">When Stephen Maturin finally gets a hold of Diana in the novels of Patrick O'Brian, Jack Aubrery describes their humping as "going at each other hammer and tongs". Just saying.</SPOILER ALERT>

posted by yerfatma at 06:51 PM on April 03, 2006

Well, of course he says it like that - it's so much more lyrical than "going at each other like Woods and DiMarco". I find it hard to resist a bit of blacksmith imagery when writing sex scenes myself. Fortunately, I seldom write sex scenes, but when I do, there's invariably an anvil involved.

posted by JJ at 07:06 PM on April 03, 2006

Without ever opening one of his books, I now nominate Patrick O'Brian for a lifetime achievement 'Bad Sex' writing award.

posted by owlhouse at 07:31 PM on April 03, 2006

chuck'n'duck - there was a lot of what I remember as vintage stuff going on in there for sure (even if a couple of them had essentially dull final days livened up with very exciting playoffs - '87 and '90 for example). I was thinking about it the other night - about how majors for me went through a spell of being quite dull to watch. I think part of the problem was having Sky TV and being able to watch every week - when you only have BBC, you only get to see the Masters and the Open; if you want the US Open and USPGA you have to find a friend with Sky! - consequently, when a major rolled around, it didn't feel all that different from some of the other tournaments. Now I don't have Sky, I love the majors madly. Actually, now that I think about it more, I suppose that "majors are dull" period correlates quite closely to a relevant period in my life. Going home and watching majors would be the equivalent today of me going home and watching Gordon Brown's budget four times a year. Did I mention that I've not been sleeping much recently?

posted by JJ at 07:39 PM on April 03, 2006

Without ever opening one of his books, I now nominate Patrick O'Brian for a lifetime achievement 'Bad Sex' writing award. Oh no, I don't want to leave you with the wrong impression about a wonderful series of books. He barely, if ever, in the course of 20 books describes sex directly. The "hammer and tongs" remark was said by a character as explanation why he was abovedecks (the noise belowdecks being too raw for even his battle-scarred ears).

posted by yerfatma at 06:10 AM on April 04, 2006

Long after everyone has probably left this thread, and from a ridiculously sideways source (my old man quoting a book he has been reading by Herb Warren Wind; specifically a section describing Nicklaus' win at Augusta in 1965 - when the course was considered very long at 6,700 yards): "... in one round he hit nothing longer than 8 iron on any of the par 4's and on 8 of them he hit wedge or sand wedge. Not sure what all that proves, but perhaps plus ca change..."

posted by JJ at 04:00 AM on April 05, 2006

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