Game Changes Price Still the Same

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A man hits his final practice ball, trades his club for a cigarette and readies himself for the remainder of the day.
 
He stands in a row with people half his age, with half his talent.
 
His thoughts arent evident; theres no cartoon bubble floating above his head. But ask him a question and his thoughts spill like a waterfall.
 
Nick Price is open and honest. Hes been around too long and accomplished too much not to be this way.
 
If he says theres a problem in the sport, you tend to believe him, because Price doesnt complain about much.
 
Thats why you take notice when he says: The greatest thing about this game is it was always the ultimate test of David versus Goliath. Its not that way now. Its rapidly changing. Its moving to all Goliath now. I dont think thats the way golf should be played.
 
These arent sour grapes from an aging golfer. Even though Price, particularly at the age of 45, is among the tours Davids in terms of distance.
 
You get the feeling hes speaking more on what he believes to be for the greater good of the game than making self-enhancing statements.
 
Price is one of the games great tacticians. Someone who relies on his ability and intelligence to navigate a course. Not someone who uses technology to go over, around and through the zigs and zags of the maze.
 
Hes won 18 times on the PGA Tour, almost all on notable tracks. Hes conquered Turnberry, Bellerive, Southern Hills, TPC at Sawgrass, Glen Abbey (twice), Firestone, Cog Hill (twice), TPC at Las Colinas, TPC at River Highlands, Harbour Town, TPC at Southwind (twice), Oak Hills and Weston Hills.
 
He most recently planted his flag for the second time at Colonial.
 
These layouts, for the most part, are classics. Theyre representative of the tournaments they host: The British Open, PGA Championship, Players Championship, Canadian Open, World Series of Golf, Western Open, Byron Nelson, Hartford, Heritage, FedEx St. Jude, Texas Open, Honda Classic and Colonial.
 
And representative of the man who won there.
 
Price is right for courses that require precision over power. Take out a par-5 or two, add in a little rough on the sides, throw in a few doglegs that cant be shortcut, and he will always be among the favorites to win.
 
Technology, however, has made many of these courses obsolete by tour standards. Modern-day cavemen are wielding titanium death-sticks and launching two-piece scuds, turning a Doral dinosaur into petroleum.
 
Ive tried to explain to (PGA Tour Commissioner Tim) Finchem how we should set up courses a little bit more, which I think would not just even up the field, but give a shot-maker the ability to compete, Price said.
 
By extending hazard lines, putting trees in, making it more (for) precision players as opposed to standing there, hitting it so far and so high off the tee.
 
Price makes this past years U.S. Open a case in point.
 
He tied for eighth at Bethpage -- an impressive accomplishment considering the 7,214-yard, par-70 Black Course.
 
In fact, lesser hitters like Nick Faldo, Jeff Maggert, Scott Hoch, Billy Mayfair and Tom Byrum were also inside the top 10.
 
But, according to Price, these guys never really had a chance to win.
 
We all had to play our tails off to finish in the top 10, he said. There was no way ' we finished eight shots, nine shots, 10 shots back of Tigers score. No way any one of us could have won.
 
And thats what drives Price.
 
Thats why I still keep playing right now, is the fact I feel deep down inside I can still win a major championship, he said. As soon as that feeling wanes, I think my desire will go a little bit.
 
Price has a British Open in the bag, as well as a pair of PGA Championships. But there is no thought of accomplishing the career Grand Slam. His bitterness towards course set-up runs deeper than the USGA.
 
I can kiss Augusta goodbye. I might as well go fishing that week, to be honest, he said in obvious frustration. What theyve done to that golf course is basically ' theres going to be maybe seven, eight guys that can win around there now. Im certainly not one of those.
 
Each year, Augusta officials make adjustments to the legendary track. However, since 2001 more than 300 yards have been added to the overall total.
 
There are a lot of us out there who are really good players who are going to have a tough time winning at Augusta, which I think is very unfair, said Price, who has only three top-10 finishes in 17 career Masters starts.
 
If you look at the history, you have Doug Ford, Gary Playereven Ben Hogan wasnt that long. You now have eradicated that type of player from winning Augusta. I think its pitiful.
 
The 1994 British Open champion would like to see U.S. officials follow the form of the Royal & Ancient (who sets up the British Open).
 
Augusta, USGA, PGA do a pretty good job, but they need to look at what the R&A is doing, he said. Theyre dealing with golf courses that are a lot older than their (the USGA, PGA and Augusta) golf courses, yet theyre still holding up to the modern equipment.
 
These courses are still competitive without having to put 50 yards on every tee.
 
They narrow up the fairways, put in some extra bunkers. They just make club selection off the tee very important.
 
This years major venues are Augusta National (Masters), Olympia Fields (U.S. Open), Royal St. Georges (British Open) and Oak Hill (PGA Championship).
 
With the exception of the Masters, where Price has already accepted defeat, each major will be played on a par-70 course. Thats good news for Price, who has only won at three par-72 courses in his career.
 
Still, Olympia Fields, outside of Chicago, will play to 7,188 yards; and Oak Hill, in Rochester, N.Y., will be at 7,098. Royal St. Georges is listed at 6,947.
 
The British Open is my most obvious opportunity (to win), Price said. The last two years I played really well in that.
 
But, the U.S. Open, you know, if it hadnt been for three of the holes, I think I would have had a chance at winningIt will be interesting to see what they do at Olympia Fields.
 
Price is an optimist, but a realist. Hes been on the PGA Tour for 21 years, and knows his prime is past. But he still holds out for at least one more major moment.
 
Eight or 10 years ago, one out of every three or four tournaments I entered I had a chance of winning, he said. Nowadays, thats down to about one and eight, maybe one and nine. If you play 20 tournaments a year, that gives you maybe two, maybe three chances a year to win.
 
I hope that two of those three opportunities will be in major championships.