Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hootie made mockery of Masters

After intently watching the Masters I have come to the conclusion that former Masters chairman Hootie Johnson should be hung by his nether regions for ruining the best tournament in the world.

It was Johnson’s idea to “Tigerproof” Augusta National. Instead he ruined the essence of the tournament, or “toonimint” as he pronounces it. The element of the possibility of a Sunday back nine charge to the winner’s circle has been removed. Now, thanks to Hootie, the only charge will be down the leader board.

The damage he did starts at the then 480-yard par-4 10th hole. It just wasn’t long enough for ole Hoots. Never mind that the green sits at a perverse angle and getting the ball close to the hole with a middle to long iron is only by luck.

Then there’s the 11th hole, now a ridiculous 505-yard par 4. Hootie added trees on the right hand side taking all strategy out of the hole. This is the hole with water guarding the front left of the green. Ben Hogan used to say that if he hit the green in regulation, he’d pulled the shot. This year on Sunday, there was one birdie on 11 out of the top 25 players in the field and that was a 45-foot bomb by Tiger Woods. This is another Hootie-driven backup hole.

Due to room constrictions, even Hootie couldn’t mess up the par-3 12th and par-5 13th holes, but he got his game back on the 14th and 15th holes. He pushed back the tee on the par-4 14th and then made the toughest green on the course somewhat a joke. All that’s missing is the swinging bowling pin and the clown’s nose.

The par-5 15th was always a crowd favorite because of the dramatic second shot. The charging competitor could attempt to carry the water in front of the green setting up a possible eagle or birdie. A less than well struck shot could literally throw cold water on a challenge for the top of the board. Now, with 35-40 extra yards and trees intruding on the left side of the fairway, the drama is limited to how far back the golfer will lay up. Yawn.

He couldn’t touch the beautiful par-3 16th, but made 17 and 18 bogey holes. By adding 45-yards to 17, he assured that at least half the field couldn’t drive past the Eisenhower tree if playing into the wind. Now, players are forced to hit clubs into a green that isn’t suited for the lower trajectory shots from that distance.

Hootie finished by adding at least 50 yards to the last hole. Where golfers strategically would hit a 3-wood off the tee to avoid the bunkers at the left corner of the fairway, they now can’t get a driver to the sand. By hitting a driver, the trees on the right and left are in play. Into a strong wind, some players were hitting fairway woods for the second shot and not getting to the green. Because the hole is so severely uphill, wood, hybrid or long iron shots were coming in so hot they wouldn’t hold the green.

Right now, there’s an 80-20 chance that a golfer will shoot 40 on the back nine to lose the Masters than there is a chance of a golfer shooting 32 to come from behind and win. Instead of the drama and excitement of Sunday afternoon at the Masters, we’re going to have to find a way to gear up for that always exciting Saturday afternoon, or maybe morning round. Thanks Hootie. You took the drama and excitement of the Masters from us and left memories of Martha Burk behind.

Sick call has been answered by Tiger Woods and John Daly. I know what you’re thinking. One should never be there and the other should never leave.
Tiger had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Supposedly, this was just to clean things up a bit and there was no real damage. According to reports, this surgery had been planned last year. I wonder how serious he thought winning the Grand Slam was doable. Then again, he had won seven times on unsteady pins.

If you said Daly’s surgery was a gastric bypass to eliminate that Miller Lite tumor hanging over his belt, I might believe it. If you said it was to scrape the tar off his lungs left by his chain smoking, I might believe it. But when they say it was to repair torn stomach muscles and that that was why he’s played so poorly for the past two years, I don’t know.

It would seem reasonable that swilling down copious amounts of Miller Lite and Jack Daniels might have been a contributor. Eating a diet that included everything except the grilled chicken and the salads from the Hooter’s menu might have been a contributor. Let’s not underplay the stress that comes from dropping yet another couple of hundred grand at a casino which might tighten the sphincter when looking at a 5-foot putt to make the cut.

Look, I was one who ascribed to the theory that if six pack abs were great, two keg abs would be spectacular. John took that theory and amplified three times. I don’t think either of us has had to worry about stomach muscles for a long time. Regardless, let’s hope that his surgeon implanted his game when he was tying up loose ends and we can once again admire JD for his tremendous game on the course rather than off.

Bartender, please pour me another. This time make it a low-cal smoothie. Pour John a double smoothie and Tiger some of his energy drink. Hootie? How about brewing him an old southern favorite—oleander tea.

See you on the first tee,


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