Lots of comment this morning about players being uncomfortable at the Masters this year. Geoff Shackelford talks about it today in our Dateline Augusta, quoting players and writers. This comfort thing is mostly related to the course. Hootie Johnson's changes, the changes to the changes, yesterday's weather, tough hole locations, etc. The Masters used to have a comfort level that other majors didn't. Players aren't feeling that this week.
But other changes are making non-players a bit uncomfortable. These changes are really about you: Readers. Patrons. Letter-writers. Golfers. Maybe-golfers.
These changes suggest a significantly different attitude at Augusta and perhaps elsewhere:
Chairman Billy Payne opening an electronic suggestion box for ideas on growing the game..
Free admission for kids to the Masters...
Televising of the Par-3. (Despite some "Cliff Roberts would turn over in his grave" comments.
I'll add the tournament allowing its web site (and golfdigest.com) to send Marty Hackel, Mr. Style, out to talk to patrons about the "scene" here at Augusta...never been done before.
(While we're at it, let's range beyond this major into the next one, the Open, and add the fact the USGA and NBC are cooperating with Golf Digest's effort to put an average player on the US Open course at Torrey Pines. )
I'm sorry, did you say the Masters is asking for suggestions and the USGA has invited one of us hackers to come try it's Open setup? I would have bet large money against either of those things happening a few months ago.
Golf may be finally getting it--golf the Industry and the Game, not Trevor Immelman's round today. Not single-digit guys who play early Sunday morning and would just as soon you find another sport if you're going to mess with their starting time. Golf, the game too many kids don't have time for between soccer and World of Warcraft. Grass roots golf.
The fact is, Arnie's tee shot into the fog yesterday is a pretty fair metaphor for the state of our game. The old game is over and we don't know where the new one is going . Arnie inspired a lot of us in the press room to find golf and we forget what a pain in the neck we must have been to the proper golfers of the day. We now find ourselves defending their turf.
What Billy Payne has done here may not be perfect. Maybe you're cynical about suggestion boxes. Maybe you've had it with cute kids in white bibs distracting Peter Kostis from important wedge shots. Maybe mixing promotion with tradition for you is like stirring beer into your bourbon.
Or perhaps, at the other end, you're one of those readers who thinks it's not gone far enough and have decided the whole U.S. Open Contest is a "farce" because the finalists aren't 16-handicaps shooting 130. We can't please y'all. But as Joe Steranka, the executive director of the PGA told me today, "We can talk about family golf all we want. But televising the Par 3, showing all those kids and their dads, that's more powerful than anything we could ever do."
Here's my suggestion to Chairman Payne: Keep it up. Keep stirring the pot. A Junior Masters? Why not. More international invitees? Of course. Golf in the Olympics? Absolutely. Who knows what will show up in that idea box.
And if it gets uncomfortable for some of us old ones, so be it. Arnie won't be with us forever. Nor will Tiger and let's face it, we want post-Tiger golf to do better than post-Michael basketball. That will take new new Tigers, new Arnies....
It's not going to happen by itself. Send Billy a suggestion.