Slightly softer greens. Hospitable hole locations. What looked to be a bit taller grass around the greens to facilitate chipping and inhibit balls from scooting far down slopes or into water hazards. Those factors, along with pleasant weather, all contributed to the back-to-birdies Masters.
But just how significant was a somewhat shorter Augusta National GC? The scorecard yardage, currently 7,435 yards, didn't come close to being utilized over the four rounds. In fact, a close look at where the tee markers were placed -- as noted on the daily green-and-tee sheets released by the tournament -- shows just how giving officials were in the set-up.
There is slight guesswork in denoting the yardages when the tees were located at points between the five-yard designations on the schematics, but this analysis should be pretty close. With the tee positions used each day, the course measured 7,342, 7,275, 7,266 and 7,335 yards from first through fourth rounds. (The biggest reason the yardage dipped much lower for rounds two and three is because the forward tees at the demanding par-3 fourth were used.) This averages to a 7,304-yard tournament course, 131 yards less than the scorecard says.
For 72 holes, 58 played shorter than the scorecard figure, 11 at the number and only three longer than the number (No. 2 Saturday, No. 6, Friday and Sunday).
The field got its biggest breaks at the following holes: No. 1, listed at 445 yards but played 10, 12 and 10 yards shorter the first three rounds and at its yardage for round four; No. 7, 450 yards, played 15, 17, five and 12 yards shorter; No. 15, 530 yards, played 15, 15, 13 and 17 yards shorter; No. 18, 465 yards, played 13, five, 10 and 17 yards shorter.
Eleven other holes also played less than the scorecard yardage at least three rounds: Nos. 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16 and 17.
-- *Bill Fields *