Augusta, Ga. The azaleas are brighter than ever. As usual, not a blade of grass is out of place. Anticipation is higher than it has been in years at the Masters, with Tiger Woods a winner again after knee surgery and Padraig Harrington going for a third straight major beginning today.
But the buzz at Augusta National has been tempered by three years of more teeth-gnashing than fist-pumping. Birdies have been replaced by bogeys.
Players are becoming more vocal in their criticism of a course that has produced so much excitement from so many charges over the years. They say it has become too long, too tough.
“Criticism hurts a little bit,” Masters chairman Billy Payne said Wednesday.
Payne responded by making the course shorter — by 10 yards.
The club also enlarged the tee boxes on the par-4 seventh and par-5 15th, allowing officials to move the tees a little more forward to make the hole play slightly shorter.
Otherwise, a club that tries to control so much can only hope Mother Nature is on its side.