What a Masters!...but...
It seems that Augusta National and the Masters never fails to deliver great theater on Sunday afternoon. Once again, the cast of characters came through for us and gave us a lurching series of ups and downs. And that finish was just what we had been sitting on the sofa for hours waiting to see, wasn’t it?
Sure, your favorites might not have been there, but the heroics and crashes that produced the playoff were just what we were expecting . . . and hoping for as we settled in for a few hours of golf watching. We saw Phil make a triple bogey that cost him his fourth green jacket. We saw a double eagle, only the fourth in Masters history. Lots of birdies and bogeys, pars saved and a spectacular shot on the second playoff hole that has to be one of the most memorable in all of Masters history.
But my nostalgic take on the Masters was tempered by the modern game -- the unbelievable distances these guys are hitting the ball. I’m a history buff, and I don’t really like or understand the modern game these guys play. Just before the telecast started, there was a special on the 1987 Masters, when Larry Mize derailed Greg Norman with that spectacular chip-in on the second play-off hole. In the holes leading up to that playoff, they showed Norman, Ballasteros and Mize negotiating the final few holes. What stood out for me is that these guys played these holes with much longer clubs into the greens than what we saw when the telecast came on.
For example, back then, the typical approach to the 18th was with a 4-iron or 5-iron. Even after lengthening the hole in the late 90s and again in the early 2000s, Bubba Watson had a sand wedge in from 113!! No one has hit more than a 7-iron to that green in years, probably. And on 16, the typical tee shot to that same back pin used to be played with a 5-iron or 6-iron. Now, these guys hit 8s and 9s.
Watching these guys trying to figure out how to make birdies on these holes with short irons in their hands makes me wonder just what the modern player would shoot if he had the same club for his approaches that they guys in the 70s and 80s did. Back then, they played Augusta with primarily middle irons to the greens, with a few short irons thrown in on the shorter holes. Hitting the par fives in two meant a great second shot with a fairway wood or 2-3 iron. When Raymond Floyd won the Masters in 1976, they enshrined his 5-wood that he used to tame 13 and 15. These guys were hitting 5- and 6-irons to 15!!
My point in all this is how the game has changed, and the question of how can you compare the accomplishments of the game’s historic greats to the modern game? Should a modern player be as accurate with his 6-iron from 190-220 as Greg Norman was with his from 165-180? Or not?
When was the last time a tour player had a 2-iron second to a finishing par four, as Hogan did in his famous photo (some say it was a 1-iron)? Gene Sarazen hit a 235-yard 4-wood into the hole on 15 for a double eagle in the 1935 Masters . . . these guys hit 5- or 6 iron from there this past weekend.
All I’m saying...
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