As the fourth major of 2011 gets underway, GolfChannel.com editorial director Jay Coffin and senior writer Rex Hoggard reflect on what was the best major venue of 2011 - Augusta National, Congressional Country Club, Royal St. George's or Atlanta Athletic Club.
By JAY COFFIN
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Simple answer: Augusta National. It’s the answer this year, and it’ll be the answer every year until the world ends.
Naysayers will likely tell you that it’s not Augusta National because the Masters returns to the same course each year, meaning that it may lose points in this argument because we’re so comfortable with the venerable layout and that it can grow old year after year. But that is precisely the reason why Augusta National is so great.
The azaleas in bloom, anticipation on the first tee, the Sunday roars, Amen Corner, the risk-reward of the 15th hole, the beauty of the 16th, the difficult tee shot on No. 18 with the tournament on the line all make many of us love the Masters more than any other major. The course is the biggest reason for this.
This year, in particular, we’ve not been wowed by other major layouts like we were last year at Pebble Beach, the Old Course at St.Andrews and Whistling Straits.
Atlanta Athletic Club is a clear second above Congressional and Royal St. George’s in this debate, but it’s still a distant second to the mystique that comes with Augusta National.
By REX HOGGARD
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – With apologies to the staple Augusta National, the standard Congressional and the traffic snafu Royal St. George’s, Atlanta Athletic Club will reign supreme as the season’s best Grand Slam test, if not one of the game’s most inspiring reclamation projects.
To be clear, that is not to say it will be the year’s most compelling major. The players will decide that. But as a fair test, it will prove to be the best of the 2011 bunch.
Or, as world No. 1 Luke Donald figured on Tuesday in Hotlanta, “It might be more like the U.S. Open than the U.S. Open was.” And it’s all thanks, in large part, to David Toms’ record-breaking win here a decade ago.
No sooner had Toms’ scrambling par at the 72nd hole dropped for a then-major-record 15-under total, club officials began planning for AAC 2.0, a golf course that wasn’t at the mercy of central Georgia’s simmering summers with a new type of grass on all 18 greens that thrives in the heat and rebuilt fairways that run hard and fast.
There are no guarantees the new AAC will produce fireworks, only that the Highlands layout will identify the best player, and that’s the only accolade any major venue really needs.