Even For Veteran Players, Augusta National Still Inspires
The 13th hole at Augusta is Ogilvy's favorite.
The anticipation I feel about playing in the Masters
never really leaves me. From the moment I drive down Magnolia Lane at the end of each tournament, I'm already looking forward to returning 51 weeks later. It's not just that we're talking about a major championship. Despite some of the course changes made over the last decade or so -- the purist in me would like to see the so-called "second cut" of rough back to where it was originally, thereby restoring the old angles into the greens -- Augusta National remains a place that stimulates my golfing soul.
The course is so good because, so often, it allows us to choose how we want to play. My favorite hole is the 13th, but one of the most interesting is the par-5 second. Almost every player in the field has a different theory on where they ideally want to leave the second shot. Some people will lay up way right for the left-side hole location, way left for the right-side spot. But others will always take the former route, no matter where the hole location is. From there you have a backstop when the pin is on the right. Other guys like to lay up in the gap between the bunkers. From there you can use the slopes on the green to get the ball close.
So everyone stands at the top of the hill visualizing slightly different third shots. Everyone has a place where they are more comfortable. And there is no right or wrong. There is just personal preference. To me, that's the mark of a truly great hole.
I'm clearly not alone in feeling that way. The people at Augusta National know how cool that second green is. It's the one putting surface that has been replicated almost exactly on the new range. It's about 60 yards off the practice tee and is so much fun to hit to.
As for the 13th, it is so tempting because the more risk you take off the tee, the easier your second shot becomes. The carrot is dangled in front of you, and a very inviting carrot it is too. Hitting a draw round the corner makes the hole an easy par 4 and a potential "birdie" 3. Those are so valuable at the Masters that a lot of guys are sucked into trying for too much off the tee.
Which is understandable. You get so much benefit from driving close to the creek. The lie is flatter. The angle is better. And the approach is shorter. It's a three-fold advantage. It's just a brilliant design. And yet, on some days and to some hole locations, it can actually be advantageous to lay up short of the creek in front of the green. Some pitch shots are relatively basic -- if you lay up in the right spot. You just chip up the slope, and it rolls close every time. So there are so many ways to play the hole -- even those who can fly the ball only 100 yards through the air can have fun there.
Plus, it goes without saying that the 13th has the most stunning setting for a green. It's just incredible, one that ticks every box. Beautiful: check. Fun to play: check. Exciting: check. Strategic: check.
Augusta National didn't become famous and historic only because of its beauty and mystique, although neither hurt, of course. It became what it is today mostly through promoting a type of golf that is hugely enjoyable, both to watch and to play. And it is those attributes that should be embraced.
There are some amazing old photos of the course that show some really wild and fun-looking stuff. An early version of the ninth green always captures my attention; it used to be horseshoe-shaped around the left-hand bunker. It would be cool to see that sort of thing considered again.
Which is not to say that I don't think the recently added length is really good. There had to be some adjustment for how far we hit the ball these days. So some of the changes have been for the better. A few of the bunkers are certainly more relevant to the modern equipment. But, if I were chairman of the greens committee at Augusta National, I'd sit down and work out how to have the whole course continue to promote interesting and challenging golf. In other words, we need to remember why this wonderful place was so great in the first place.
*Geoff Ogilvy, 33, will be playing in his sixth Masters. The Australia native and 2006 U.S. Open champ has made the cut in his five previous starts. His best finish is a T-15 in 2009. *