Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Tradition Like No Other... Well, Sorta

When does golf season truly start?

The Mercedes Benz Championship in Hawaii in January is the first tournament of the golf season. I mean Geoff Ogilvy won the thing, and he is a top-10 player.... but this really doesn't reel in the casual golf fan.

Some say the season doesn't start until Tiger Woods steps out onto the first tee of a tournament. This year that would be the Accenture Match Play in late February. While many count this as the beginning of golf season, it's still just the match play tournament... it's just not that enthralling.

The "5th major," the Player's Championship at TPC Sawgrass was moved from its usual spot in March to May. Before this move, the Player's Championship was most definitely the start of the season, but now we don't get to enjoy watching golfer after golfer suffer at the 17th island green until we approach Memorial Day.

Which brings us to Augusta National Golf Club. Azaleas blooming. Fresh cut grass with not one weed on the property. Amen Corner. Roars rolling down the hills on the back 9 on Sunday.... or not.

It's been talked about for a few years now, but Augusta has lost some of the excitement that we yearn. The players are even talking about it. Instead of hearing the Sunday roars, we get the Sunday groans. Last year Trevor Immelman increased his lead even when he shot a final round 75. Tiger himself said that eagle opportunities have vanished:

"I just hope the excitement comes back on the back nine; it's not what it used to be. 13, 15 … good drives were automatic irons into greens, and that's not always the case now."

Is the Masters still a tradition like no other?
It seems that these past few years have mirrored the U.S. and British Opens. Bogeys are more frequent than birdies. It's frustrating having to wait until August to see birdies at a major.

Will we ever see a Sunday charge like the back nine 36 that Nicklaus fired in 1986? It would be a shame if we didn't because that is one of the biggest lures, at least for me, of the Masters. The excitement of Amen Corner and then the par-5's and then the par-3 16th... it's just golf at its finest.

So I ask Augusta officials: shorten the course, cut down the rough, slow down the greens. Lets bring the magic and creativity back to what is golf's premiere event. We tune in to this tournament to see the shot makers sculpt their way around the course... not to smash a drive and pray that their 3-iron approach hold the green; that's what the Bethpages and Pinehursts are fore.

So please, Augusta National, for fans and golfers alike ... let the eagles soar and the birdies chirp.


Oh, and I like Tiger to claim his 5th green jacket this Sunday.

Here is my Masters Preview from NewsOk.com:

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