Restoring the Masters Roars
And there may be a solution.
A source close to the officials who control the course set-up at Augusta National thinks he has the answer: Multiple tee boxes.
Currently Augusta has a Members set that measures approximately 6,400 yards and a Masters set that comes in at 7,445. And thats it.
The source stopped just short of predicting Augusta National will build intermediate tee boxes to create flexibility. But, he said, he wont be surprised if thats exactly what happens.
When contacted by GOLF CHANNEL Steve Flesch, who finished T5 at Augusta, was all over the concept of multiple tee boxes, both on the long par-4s and all the par-5s.
The whole idea behind creating the flexibility is that it allows officials to adjust the length of the holes to the conditions before a round on short notice. Flesch said the Masters tee boxes at the par-5 13th and par-5 15th holes this year were just 20-25 yards long. He said when he got to Amen Corner on Thursday it was, like a funeral out there, nothing but people clapping for pars.
Added Flesch, I wouldnt trade playing in the Masters for the world, but if youre looking for excitement, there needs to flexibility in course set-up.
In other words, if a stiff Sunday wind is making the 510-yard 13th play more like 570 yards and a foolish gamble to reach in two, there should be an up tee box to bring eagles and two-putt birdies back into play.
The irony of all this, in the context of major championship golf, is that the USGAs inner circle appears to be ahead of the curve. At the urging of senior staffer Mike Davis, the 18th hole at Torrey Pines will play as a par-5 at the U.S. Open in June. Initially the USGAs braintrust wanted the final hole there to play as a long, difficult par-4.
But Davis, who thought the hole was boring as a par-4, convinced Jim Hyler, chairman of the USGAs championship committee; and the 18th as a shortish par-5---thanks to multiple tee boxes---was fait accompli.
We still want the U.S. Open to be the sternest test of the year, Davis said. But when we can, we love to create risk-reward.
And, perhaps, more roars.
Consistent with its approach to create more risk-reward and less sheer terror, the USGA, as earlier reported in this space, has actually widened four fairways at Torrey Pines South in comparison to their width when the players were there for the Buick Invitational in January.
Now comes word that the USGA has targeted the intriguing par-3 third hole for championship week. Visitors at Torrey Pines South have the option of playing five tee boxes. At the third hole those distances range from 198 yards to 113 yards.
The second-shortest option is 142 yards and the teeing ground'dead downhill and straight into the teeth of the prevailing wind'is completely exposed to the elements. Hit it long left and you are in the barranca. Hit it long-long and you are over the cliffs and heading for the Pacific Ocean.
We just dont seem to have enough short par-3s, Davis said, adding that the gradient from tee to green makes the actual distance measure more like 126 yards. Under the right conditions it will play very much like the infamous 107-yard par-3 seventh hole at Pebble Beach.
It should be great fun to watch those guys (the U.S. Open field) play that hole from that tee box, Davis said.
Annika Sorenstam, currently ranked No. 2 in the Rolex Womens World Golf Rankings, is closer in rankings points average to No. 832 (Mami Matsubara) than she is to No. 1 (Lorena Ochoa).
PLAYERS FOR PLAYERS:
This weeks EDS Byron Nelson Championship will mark the end of qualifying for THE PLAYERS early next month. A total of 69 players in the field in Texas can get into THE PLAYERS with a win at the Nelson.
Those names include Corey Pavin, Frank Lickliter and Paul Azinger..Only three Texans'Ben Crenshaw (1983), Billy Ray Brown (1992) and Scott Verplank (2007) have won the Nelson.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.