Happy Friday to everyone. Pleased to report that I’m back bouncing around after dealing with a bout of low T yesterday on the heels of our Sweetens Cove extravaganza and then a quick visit to Augusta. I hadn’t been to ANGC in a couple years and viewed it through a different (i.e. much more critical) lens this time versus past visits. Frankly I’m having trouble discerning if I’m just off the deep end of negativity/jadedness or if these are legitimate gripes. Like anything, probably somewhere in the middle.
Golf course architecture is something that I’ve only gotten deep into over the past 24 months and have learned a lot from a variety of sources like Geoff Shackelford, Michael Clayton, Zac Blair, Geoff Ogilvy, Andy Johnson, and others. Like any niche subject matter the deeper you get the more you develop your own opinions. The guys listed above continue to impart foundational wisdom about the tenets of golden age architecture, and more and more I feel my comfortable and strident in developing my own opinions and fleshing out my observations.
Obviously nitpicking here but there are glaring details all over the course that make me irrationally upset, some are well documented, some not: the bunkers are straight-up bland Faz (especially after seeing the MacKenzie bunkering up close down in Melbourne last year); the bunker down the right side of 2 seems out of place; the ponds on 11 and 16 are out of place and a relic of RTJ’s penal golf course philosophy; the current state of 7 is outright gross; the fairway should continue around the left side of the fairway bunkers on 3; the unnecessary trees on a dozen different holes; a narrow strip of unnecessary “second cut” bisects many green runoffs and tee boxes, needlessly separating them and chopping up the aesthetic; the level of overseed/lack of dormant bermuda is staggering; etc. Again, some of these are small details, but we’re talking about a consensus top five course in the world here: the standards are sky-high and having the blueprint for what the place once was (and could be again) makes the microscope even finer. It should be held to the highest possible standard, and they’re whiffing on details here.
The constant nods to history are the most off-kilter part of ANGC and Masters week at large, as if they’re willfully ignoring MacKenzie’s contributions/philosophy and yielding to some internal Cliff Roberts voice that values superficiality. This all wouldn’t be so frustrating except for the fact that American golf at large looks to Augusta as its ideal. Tom Fazio is the consulting architect for godsake!
And while the fan experience is second to none, one can’t help but think that’s reaching a tipping point. On Wednesday I picked up an egg salad sandwich in the concession stand to the right of the tenth hole and was positively blown up by a volunteer who basically yelled in my face that those are a Masters tradition. I’m from the south so I want to be careful not to conflate genuine hospitality with an over-the-top act, but with each passing year I feel like the tournament becomes more of the latter – performance art where we’re treated to an impersonation of The Masters. The cheese is amped up one more level every year. Even the ice cream sandwich just seemed a little too cute (sugar cookie with peach ice cream in the middle – eyeroll. Just give me a chocolate chip ice cookie ice cream sando and call it a day.) /end rant
First Round Takeaways
– Can’t help but marvel at Jordan Spieth. His putting stroke’s been derided all season (not unfairly) and we haven’t seen anything even remotely resembling his ceiling since last year. His ballstriking showed signs of life last week and then it’s like the light just went off yesterday and his entire game came together, right on schedule. The scary part is that this seems like (i.e. me reading the tea leaves and projecting my take) it was the plan all along and that he’s been holed up in the lab with Cam McCormick working on things, being incredibly patient with the process, and conserving competitive energy. Remarkable discipline and commitment to be able to do that while the entire golf world is simultaneously asking “what’s wrong with Jordan Spieth?”
Digging deeper into that commitment and discipline, JS seems content to focus on majors and treat most of the tour schedule as secondary in his quest. Many guys talk about doing that but it’s exceedingly rare to see total commitment to it beyond Big Cat. Lastly, watching Spieth plot his way around Augusta is akin to watching the world’s most competent actuary deducing risks and elements that others don’t even recognize. I imagine that last year’s debacle on 12 only furthered that philosophy for him. He’s not even tempted by the fruits of low-percentage plays. Obviously I’m reading too deep into one round and he’s throwing up all over himself today, but those are action errors. Guy simply doesn’t make decision errors in these parts. Porter said it best:
They should replace Spieth's locker at Augusta National with a wardrobe. Augusta is his Narnia.
— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) April 5, 2018
– The leaderboard is so good that I’m having trouble staying in the moment and enjoying the process. Instead I’m looking ahead to Saturday and Sunday NARBing. Spieth, McIlroy, DJ, Mickelson, Flower, Oosty, Stenson, Reed, Leish, Kuch, Fleetwood, and Rose all firmly in the mix and Cat lurking after a remarkable Thursday grindhouse special. This weekend might be way too good.
– Want to give a shoutout to the Big Hunani, aka Haotong Li, who seems to be playing Wolf Hammer out there:
@NoLayingUp Haotong with the Saddam!
— James Montessi ⛳️ (@Montessi) April 5, 2018
– Caught some of Joaquin Niemann’s warmup session yesterday – he puts a cool move on the ball and possesses serious hip action.
– Obligatory Sergio take: I love Sergio but thoroughly enjoyed the performance on 15. My only gripe is that he should’ve leaned in and played it up, especially after he one-putted. He’s a competitor and wants to defend his title, but when an ejection that fiery occurs on a Thursday there’s nothing you can do but laugh and accept it. I was also secretly rooting for him to run out of balls just because I’ve never seen that happen before. Anyway, head up Sergio!
– Pretty disappointed in Aphibarnrat after a first round 79. Expected to see a good showing this week from him and Cam Smith. Cam is holding up his end of the bargain after Thursday.
Second Round Forecast
– Wind is supposed to stay up for the late afternoon today, resulting in vastly different conditions than those encountered by Spieth and the Thursday PM wave. The Thursday PM/Friday AM wave looks to have a distinct advantage – will see if that materializes. Round 1 hole locations are typically toughest, keep that in mind.
– Keep an eye out for the front hole location on 13 today. A frequent criticism of the course setup is the encroachment of the gallery along the right side of 13. For anyone forced to lay up the ideal play to both Thursday and Friday’s pins is to blow it 75 yards right, basically onto the member’s tee on 14. But moving the galleries is arduous and time consuming, so very rarely will anyone actually go that route. Perfect example of Augusta disrespecting the cult of width and angles.
– Big spot for Adam Hadwin today starting the day at -3. Each time he’s shown on the broadcast I keep thinking he’s the love child of Mike Weir and Cam Tringale.
– Early coverage yesterday was good on Masters.com with Leish/Cat/Fleetwood. The Casey/Matsuyama/Kizzire group lacked some pop and was a little painful to watch on the back. DL3 provided some solid insights on the featured group coverage, and Billy Ray Brown continues to be one of the best in the business. Things lost steam once ESPN came on (with CBS production, I’ll add), the action slowed down (nothing you can do there) and gave too much of a cursory role to SVP and Curtis Strange, both of whom should be leading the telecast on Thu/Fri. Again today it seems like some flexibility would help matters re: the featured groups, as JWall pointed out:
Really wish the powers that be could flex McIlroy coverage right about now. Li-Couples-Niemann ain’t cutting it.
— Jonathan Wall (@jonathanrwall) April 6, 2018
Enjoy the coverage today and we’ll see you for the live show this evening!