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Grouchy Golf Blog

Monday, April 09, 2007 at 11:42 PM

The Tiger-Proofed Masters

This seems to be the consensus opinion on the 2007 Masters:
  1. ” has made Augusta National too difficult
  2. As a result, birdies and eagles were rare, taking the excitement out of the event
  3. Bottom Line: It was a borefest
I must be in the minority, but I thoroughly enjoyed the 71st Masters. Maybe the setup was too difficult for a traditional Masters, but when it comes to tournament golf, I prefer attrition warfare over shootouts. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that a course can be too difficult. The 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock was a prime example of the silliness that can arise from a sadist greenskeeper gone wild. But as long as a golf course is fair, I think that it’s fine. After all, everyone plays on the same course.

The difficult conditions left a wide-open Masters for the final round. On Sunday, Stuart Appleby, Rory Sabbatini, Retief Goosen, Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods all owned a piece of the lead at some point. Call me crazy, but I find such a “neck and neck” competition much more interesting than someone trouncing the field by 5 strokes the entire day.

Unfortunately, there was one key ingredient missing from this year’s Masters that would have made it magical: a classic Tiger charge. We all expected it, but it never came. Uncharacteristically, Tiger lost a final-round lead! However, don’t blame the course for that, Tiger clearly didn’t have his A, B or even C game. But take nothing away from Zach Johnson. He did not fold under the pressure and instead played brilliant golf. Unlike many winners this year, Zach won this tournament.

But imagine if Tiger was his usual self and forced Zach Johnson into a playoff ala Bob May in the PGA Championship circa 2000. Wouldn’t that have been exciting? All of a sudden, this Masters goes down in the history books as one of the best ever. Oh well, I guess Tiger is indeed human. It's either that or the Masters has truly been "Tiger-Proofed." Regardless, I'm just glad that I watched it all unfold on CBS in 100% high def, unlike that treatment.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006 at 10:23 PM

Phony Stuff in Butler Cabin

The Masters is all about tradition. However, not all traditions are good. One of these traditions that I can do without is the made-for-TV green jacket ceremony in Butler Cabin. After sitting through a couple of these shams, I have concluded that it's one of the most ridiculous ceremonies in sports.

It was bad enough seeing Phil Mickelson purposely flaunt that carefully manufactured wholesome family image in front of the cameras on the walk to Butler Cabin. GQ nailed it on the head when they named Mickelson to the Ten Most Hated Atheletes List and wrote, "Mickelson has aggressively pursued a family-man image that is crucial to his success as an endorser." I, for one, have not nor ever will, be fooled by the .

Unfortunately, the phoniness only worsened as the festivities rolled into Butler Cabin. As we all know, Hootie and the Men of the Masters are wacko control freaks. When they try to deceive the viewers into thinking that the tightly-controlled green jacket ceremony in Butler Cabin is a casual and spontaneous affair, the result is just laughable. This year, the ceremony started the same way as it always does. Hootie introduces Jim Nantz and then reads off the teleprompter:
In a few minutes we'll be joined by our 2006 champion, Phil Mickelson. And with him will be last year's champion Tiger Woods who will present him with his green jacket. And Jim, I believe that they're coming in now.
Right on cue, Phil and Tiger stroll into the picture. Can you say "contrived"?

The rest of the ceremony was as artificial as Splenda. Even Tiger feigns joy as he slips the XXXL green jacket onto Phil's naturally padded shoulders. The only thing missing was a live performance by Milli Vanilli. As JD Salinger wrote in The Catcher in the Rye, "People always think something's all true." As Holden Caulfield would have done, I turned off my TV in disgust.

P.S. My buddy Tony K. of Hooked On Golf has started golf's version of MySpace. Called The Golf Space, it's a networking site only for golfers. Users have their own profiles, pics, blogs, connections, business associates etc. Be sure to check it out.


Saturday, March 25, 2006 at 10:23 AM

Gettin' Grouchy at Augusta National

Hootie and the Blowhards have a knack for controversy. Whether it's banning one of the best golf commenters of all-time or supporting sexism into the 21st century, the "" just don't seem to get it. If you thought that our country couldn't be run any worse than it is now, just give Hootie the keys to the White House and let him work his magic. Hmmm, I always wondered what it would sound like if Foghorn Leghorn were president.

This year, the Masters will play on a newly lengthened Augusta National. Most observers see this as a desperate attempt to defend the historic course from the modern-day long hitters. So-called "", the only thing that it really accomplishes is to eliminate short-hitters from ever being competitive.

Master grouchy golfer Jack Nicklaus concurs:
I know what Augusta is trying to do. Whether they've gone overboard, I'm not sure. But they've eliminated a lot of guys who are able to do that. Could Tiger [Woods] do that? Or Ernie Els? Or Vijay [Singh]? Yes. Could Mike Weir or Jose Maria [Olazabal] -- one of those guys of moderate length -- could they do that? Probably not. That's the change at Augusta I have a hard time with.
But I think that Hootie et al would love to have you think that they modified Augusta solely to "Tiger Proof" it. They are a are a bit more clever and sinister than that. I believe that they lengthened Augusta to eliminate a future threat. Just imagine if you were Hootie or one of his henchmen. What would be the worst thing that could ever happen at your beloved Masters? It would be some girl donning the Green Jacket!

Unthinkable just a couple of years ago, the possibility of a woman competing in the Masters has been raised by the emergence of Michelle Wie. In fact, Wie has often stated that her dream is to play in the Masters someday. While she's a long shot at best to ever win it (let alone to ever get there in the first place), I think that Hootie wants to eliminate the possibility altogether. Hootie realizes that while he can't prevent her or any other female über-golfer from qualifying into the Masters, he can lengthen the course so that no female has a realistic chance to ever win it.

"Wie Proofing" may sound a bit absurd but it's about as absurd as most actions taken by the dictators of golf. Unfortunately, this last bout of mania could have the worst impact on my favorite golf event. That said, look for Tiger to win by 2 strokes.


Monday, April 04, 2005 at 12:12 PM

Augusta National - One of Golf's Axis of Evil?

The Masters at Augusta National is my favorite Golf event. Maybe even my favorite sporting event period.

It just so happens that my favorite golf TV broadcaster, CBS, covers The Masters. Sounds like a match made in heaven, doesn't it?

Well not so much. You see, Augusta National represents many of the things that I despise in golf. Led by Chairman Hootie Johnson, Augusta has a long history of being pretty damn uptight and high-fallutin. They take issue with anything that doesn't agree with the 50s era that they choose to live. Remember Martha Burk's protest of Augusta National's all-male membership policy in 2003? She would have been more successful protesting the war in Iraq. If there is one place on earth where women will never roam, it's the member's only clubhouse at Augusta. The only good thing about Augusta's backward mindset is that you can still get a Pimento Cheese sandwich for a buck, whatever that is. I can't eat it anyway since I'm lactose-intolerant.

But the worst offense committed by Hootie and the Blowhards is their Stevie Williams-like bullying of CBS Sports. Hootie maintains that they have no control over their TV partner. Well, technically Angelina Jolie has no control over me. But if she promised to kiss me with those bee-stung lips every time I played golf in a dress, I'd be at Ann Taylor to fill my closet with size 4s pronto. Similarly, Augusta controls something that all sports television broadcasters would wear a dress for: The Masters television contract. It is the holy grail of golf broadcasting. Because Augusta refuses to grant long-term television contracts, they really have their TV broadcaster by the cojones. Since 1956, Augusta has granted a series of one-year TV deals to CBS Sports. There's no way that CBS will ever do anything to kill its golden egg-laying goose and everyone knows it. As a result, Augusta oversees CBS' coverage like Big Brother, and CBS knows that they must please The Master(s).

For example, Augusta limits CBS Sports to broadcast only four minutes of commercials each hour. In addition, CBS must receive final approval of all commercial copy from Augusta. When the champion is introduced at Butler Cabin to received his green jacket, an Augusta representative, not CBS, asks the first on-air question.

But the most regoddamndiculous thing that I've heard are Augusta's various linguistic rules for The Masters TV broadcast. The long-standing rumor has it that Augusta dictates the "proper" language to be used during the broadcast. Listen carefully to The Masters broadcast. Supposedly, there can be no mention of prize money. Certain familiar terms are blasphemous. "Fans" is considered an obscene four-letter word that must be replaced with "patrons." Similarly, "rough" must be termed "the second cut." Violations are often met with draconian penalties.

In 1966, Augusta took offense at Jack Whitaker's reference to a "mob" scene around the 18th green, and he was removed from the broadcasts immediately thereafter.

During the 1994 telecast, Gary McCord said that the greens were so slick they looked "bikini-waxed", and that it was so difficult to get up-and-down if you flew the 17th green there were "body bags" behind it. McCord was taken off the CBS team the following year and hasn't been back since.

Of course, Augusta appearing innocent to the public is a major part of the deal. Hootie has claimed several times that the club doesn't decide who CBS uses during the broadcasts. "We really don't make that decision. CBS puts together that team," said Hootie. "That's their call. We don't try to structure their organization."

Of course, CBS would never disagree with The Master(s). Sean McManus, the president of CBS Sports, has confirmed that CBS makes the decision annually. "We make the decision which is best for our program," McManus has said. "Year in, year out, it's the one golf program people want to watch the most."

Yeah right. Gary McCord is one of the most entertaining personalities in golf, period. He and David Feherty make golf appealing to the masses. Together, their wit and chemistry is best for any golf coverage. McManus knows that. His statement's obviously a cry for sympathy. He really meant, "We all know that these guys who run Augusta are wackos. But what can I do? The moment we stop kissing their arses, our TV contact won't be renewed and I'm out of a job. Please understand."

It's been over 10 years since Gary McCord last broadcast from The Masters. Think of all the brilliant commentary that we have been deprived. And for what reason? A couple of innocent words that would be suitable for any G-rated program? To be fair, the Masters television rights fees CBS pays to Augusta are far less than that of similar sports events. But Augusta's absurd policies don't just punish CBS and Gary McCord, they punish all of us. Kim Jong Il would be proud.

P.S. You'd have to be ridiculous not to pick one of the Big 4 (Tiger, Els, Mickelson, Vijay) to win The Masters. Therefore, my pick is Luke Donald. With 3 top 10 finishes this year, he's primed. Luke, may the Force be with you!