Editors' BlogApril 7, 2009

Pace of Augusta Change

We got this letter on Pace of Play the other day--short but sweet, as you'd expect a letter on pace of play to be.

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Dear Editor,>

It seems like the players on the PGA tour are playing slower and slower. I'm getting bored watching them because it takes so long for them to play.>

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Also, why do they have to take so many practice swings?  Yesterday, J.B. Holmes was taking at least 15 practice swings.   If you have practiced before a tournament, you shouldn't need to take so many practice swings.   What kind of message does this send to the average golfer?>

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Sharon Hutchens>

Hixson, TN

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It's funny, Sharon, I'm usually obsessed with pace of play--it's as ridiculous at the pro level as it is at the amateur level. Our international editor, John Barton, has the wisest solution: Every swing counts, practice or otherwise. Need a practice swing to get you in the mood? Add a stroke. Try playing a round that way and you'll realize that you can get along just fine without them.

But I'm interest in a different pace this week, and it's the pace of change. I know this sounds counter to everything you've heard about Augusta. This afternoon, watching them prepare for the Par 3--now televised--I saw the first sky-cam I've ever seen at a golf tournament, sliding across a cable between holes 8 and 9 a few yards over the water. There's a new white "caddy castle" inside Gate No. 4 that have the caddies saying that Augusta has gone from back in the pack to first in accommodations for bag-toters. That new caddy headquarters stands alongside what promises to be, when it opens next year, the most dazzling practice range in the country, and around the corner from a Berckman Road parking area that looks like, well, a park. Walk-in gates have also moved to Berckman, freeing the traffic on Washington Road from the constant pedestrian interruptions that were part of the scene forever. So is the entire experience of walking into the Masters, which is now full of full-grown trees and handsome modern, green (of course) buildings. Around the course, small merchandise stands have been added so that if you're just looking for a couple of caps you can buy them without entering the big and usually crowded merchandise tent. There's a new concession stand outside of the second fairway that looks better than some of the restaurants in town. (Only the prices have stayed the same. ) Even the service entrance on Washington is spruced up.

Tiger said in his press conference today, "This tournament more so than any other, it's easier to prepare for. Augusta National does just an amazing job of letting the pros

get ready, and it's been certainly one of my favorite places to play."

Tiger sidestepped the question of whether he likes all the changes made of late to the golf course, but one thinks the course will keep changing, too. This year, I expect, you'll see more variety in the tee placement--moving tees up where appropriate--and without a great deal of fanfare, more roars on the second nine, one hopes. Expect more alterations to the course next year, because the pace of change here is as fast as anywhere on tour. This is the tournament, after all, that just announced an amateur event in Asia that will bring the winner here to the Masters and invited a 17-year-old from Japan, Ryo Ishikawa to play.

Who knows what's next here at stodgy old Augusta.

--Bob Carney

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