The Loop

How Will Augusta Play?

April 09, 2008

Topic A is how it will at Augusta and, if your letters are any indication, at your home course is well. The debate over John Barton's How Green is Golf? is level orange at this point. See posts here and on our environmental forum. The debate seems to be focused on the political at the moment--"I am writing to tell you that I buy your magazine to read about golf, not the environment. I read your magazine as an escape from the everyday bombardment of politics and doom and gloom that the media gives us"--sickofgreen wrote yesterday. But eventually we'll get to playing conditions and then color becomes a measure of firmness and speed, not political position. (See Golf Digest's new definition of "Conditioning" in its course rating as a start of that conversation).

The wish here at Augusta is to have last year's firmness/speed with this year's temperatures (70s). Which would mean, one hopes (one being media, the club and the players, oh, everybody) lower scores. Already the softness brought on by last weekend's rain has some players gently predicting a return to sub-par scores. (Zach Johnson won with plus-1 in '07).

Adam Scott: It's so hard to pick a winning score, but it's playing so long at the moment; it will be hard to get a lot of shots close...I don't know, a couple under maybe, if the weather's good. But Sean Micheel, who said that last year's high scores were "definitely" weather-related, nonetheless thought high scores could happen again if we get no more rain: "Over par could happen."

Phil Mickelson agreed: They won't be lower. I think the scores may get a little bit higher, yeah, and the length is the biggest factor. Also all of the trees and the tightening of the golf course.>

Privately players have been a bit bolder. One said that the course's softness, especially if we get showers on Friday and/or Saturday, could produce a score closer to 8- or 9-under par. The softness hurts some players, obviously, but gives long hitters a chance to hit approaches more aggressively.

Augusta will never by anything but green. But if we see no rain over the weekend and winds pick up as predicted, it will be a fast, light green and oldtime low scores will remain out of reach.

If that kind of Masters encourages golf clubs around the country to water a bit less, that's a good thing. If it pushes them to green speeds of 11 or 12, as Oakmont did last year, not so much.

--Bob Carney