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Player, Nicklaus rail against the golf ball, green-reading books

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Modern technology struggles to get inside the gates at Augusta National Golf Club. Cell phones will get you thrown out, and green-reading books can be left in players’ courtesy cars.

It’s an idyllic trip back in time for some, but for Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, it’s simply a step in the right direction.

Nicklaus and Player reprised their annual role as honorary starters Thursday morning, kicking off the 83rd Masters with opening tee shots in front of thousands of eager patrons. The two men, who have combined to win nine green jackets, then went to the press building where they reminisced about decades spent together at the club as well as the state of technology in the modern game.

It was on that latter point that they formed a consensus.

“The golf ball has gotten ridiculous. I have so many things on that,” Nicklaus said. “The golf ball from 1930 to about ’95 gained about six yards. From 1995 to 2005, about 15 yards, and that’s a big difference. Probably the organizations won’t tell you that, but that’s exactly about what happened.”

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It’s a familiar refrain from Nicklaus, who has railed against the technological advancements in the game for the last several years. He was joined in support by Player, who offered a warning that the governing bodies need to create a bifurcated ball of some sort, lest players begin driving the 445-yard first hole at Augusta National.

“We’d better start thinking. They are going to hit wedges to all the par-5s, and golf courses like St. Andrews, this marvelous golf course, is completely obsolete. They can drive probably six greens,” Player said. “So I don’t know where we’re going. And our leaders of such have got to get together now and form a ball for professionals that’s different to the amateurs. Let the amateurs have anything they’d like. … But we have got to stop this, otherwise it’s going to be a joke, in my opinion.”

Player didn’t just stop with his thoughts on the ball. The 83-year-old also expressed his distaste for green-reading books, which are not allowed at Augusta National and whose details was recently reined in by the USGA and R&A.

“Bobby Locke was the best putter that ever lived, and Tiger Woods was the best putter and so on. I never saw him take out a book to read the damn green,” Player said. “To read the green, you’ve got to look at a book. Well if you can’t read a green, you should be selling beans. It’s part of the game. Where are we going? Everything is so artificial.”