AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There has never been so many concerns about roars as there have been this week -- or at least never so many concerns about roars outside the confines of a zoo.
You've heard the complaint: Augusta National has been lengthened too much, the course is playing too narrow, and in the absence of birdies and eagles -- particularly on the back nine -- there have been none of the aforementioned roars that have made this tournament what it is (or at least was).
Well, if the first seven hours or so of the Masters has been any indication, we might be on to something. In the first round last year, there were just 18 rounds under par. As of this writing, there are 38 players in red numbers. That includes Jim Furyk, who birdied four straight holes on the back nine en route to a 66, Chad Campbell, who birdied five straight holes and is now a shot back; and even 50-year-old Augusta native Larry Mize, who is also at 5 under 22 years after his memorable win here.
Whether any of those players are still near the lead on Sunday is another story. But it's still a sign that this tournament could be inching its way back to exciting.
"It certainly was a great experience out there today, having the course play somewhat similar to what it did probably eight, 10 years ago," said Tim Clark, who is two shots off the lead after a 68.
So what's done it exactly? Were the tees moved up? Were trees cut down? Actually, it's a simple conspiracy of the elements. Warm weather, little wind. Add it up and you get a tournament that looks an awful lot like the Masters.
*-- Sam Weinman *