Saturday, April 7, 2007

Tough Year at the Masters

It's the weekend, so we get to relax and think about golf.

With the third round of play almost complete, the leader at the Masters tournament is one over par. Tiger Woods's score of +3 puts him in fourth place.

I am eminently unqualified to offer an opinion about this topic -- I've been seen hitting a ball around the course, but it would be an exaggeration to call anything I do "playing golf" -- but it seems to me that Augusta is setting the course up to be too hard. The official reason for the recent course changes is that Bobby Jones meant for players to use a mid-iron or a long iron for their second shot on many holes, and today's longer distance means that many of the players were getting around the course with nothing but a driver and a wedge. So Augusta has had to lengthen and toughen many of the holes.

All very sensible, but still, the club should remember that the tournament is a show and that people want to be entertained in a certain way. Just as baseball is best when the average combined score in each game is about 9 runs, a golf tournament is best when the top players can make some (but not too many) birdies and an occasional eagle and have a decent shot at breaking par at the end of the day. The U.S. Open, of course, is famous for attempting to set up the course so that only the leader breaks par, but other tournaments shouldn't be emulating this goal. Each day's leader should be shooting about 67 or 68, with lower scores occurring on days when conditions are favorable.

Part of Masters lore is that no player has ever put together four rounds in the 60s. It's not ever going to happen if the club keeps the harsh course setup.

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