Thursday, April 07, 2005

Masters ball?

While every newspaper in North America was busy talking about which of the Fab Four would win the Masters (assuming it doesn't get washed away in the rain), the real story was brought up quietly by Augusta National chair Hootie Johnson. Johnson, after years and millions spent on making Augusta tougher for the top pros in the world, seems to be coming around to the notion that there isn't that much more that Tom Fazio can do to make the course harder.
What's left? The possibility of a Masters ball. Johnson acknowledged yesterday that the tournament is seriously looking into the issue, but hopes the PGA Tour will do something about it first.
"We are hopeful and we're encouraged that the governing bodies and the tour, (commissioner) Tim Finchem, that they are addressing this problem," Johnson said at his annual news conference. "It is a problem for the game, not just for Augusta National and the Masters tournament. We are hopeful and encouraged that progress is being made."
I'm not sure what kind of progress Hootie is talking about. Could it be the
letter the USGA recently sent to manufacturers about spin rate of balls and moment of inertia in clubs? The USGA is a paper lion, and I very much doubt they are going to go forward with any significant changes for fear of being sued out of existence by the equipment makers
But whether you like it or not, Augusta National Golf Club is a ballsy organization, willing to take on all comers. The club has spent a fortune trying to protect itself from red-hot golf balls and drivers, and in the process has pretty much gutted what little was left of the course Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie dreamed up in the first place. Without the PGA Tour or the USGA seeming to be willing to come up with a solution to golf balls that travel ridiculous distances, maybe Augusta has to be the one to step up. How sad is that? Golf's traditions upheld by a single club and not one of the regulatory organizations that are supposed to protect its heritage.
Anyway, I'm sure Hootie is hoping that someone else is willing to tackle this problem, but if not, in pure Augusta style, the Masters could institute its own ball. And the ball manufacturers would make a ball to those specs and everyone invited would still come and play.
But the ramifications of that decision would rock golf.
I bet it happens.




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