The Loop

Bestrom: Please Bring Back the Roars

April 10, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga. -â¿¿ Here's an idea for the green coats, or whoever is responsible for reducing Masters joy for players and patrons: What do you say we put the field on the members tees Friday? Maybe back off the saturating of the fairways and perhaps cut a few holes in some accessible locations.

"It used to be a lot of fun to play," Jim Furyk said. "It's not fun anymore." Oh, by the way, Furyk's 70 was one of the lowest rounds of the day.

There were exactly two memorable roars Thursday at sun-soaked Augusta National. The first was the result of a hole-in-one by England's Ian Poulter on the 170-yard 16th. In a rare bit of luck, I happened to be standing nearby when Poulter's ball landed 20 to 25 feet right of the hole and began trickling down the slope the way so many balls do on that dramatic par 3. When it disappeared into the cup, the thousands of people sitting and standing within view produced the kind of thunderous reaction we love to hear at Augusta.

More than two hours later, when Tiger Woods chipped in for eagle on the par-5 15th, came roar No. 2. Sadly, it would be the last of the day. But why?

"This must be what Augusta National wants," said Tom Watson, who remembers hearing a lot more noise and players having a lot more fun during his championship years here (1977 and '81). "You used to hear a lot more roars around here. Last year it was a morgue; it's just not as exciting as it was in the past."

Watson says the course is too long--and on Thursday too wet--for players to do more than bash drives, try to knock it on the green somewhere and two-putt for pars.

The lack of roars got Woods' attention, too. "It's hard to make the eagles and the big birdies," said Woods. "The course is playing so much more difficult now being longer."

Charles Howell III said you almost have to have a U.S. Open mentality on the course now, "where pars are good scores."

Arron Oberholser, who shot a 71 and reiterated his plans to take two months off after the Masters so he can properly heal his hand, said the sad part about the mostly quiet Thursday is that it might only get quieter.

"This is about as easy as it's going to play for the week," says Oberholser. "The excitement has been taken out of it."

Hopefully, someone in charge is willing to bring back the thrills.

--Craig Bestrom