‘It’s unfair at times’: Pro criticizes Augusta National setup, severity

Tyrrell Hatton after a difficult 13th hole on Saturday.

CBS/Masters.com

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tyrrell Hatton has never warmed to the Masters. Before this year, he’d made five appearances, twice missing the cut. On two other occasions, he finished outside the top 40 before notching his first top-20 finish — a T18 — a year ago thanks to a fourth-round 68.

This year? Hatton regressed to the mean. Augusta National has played tough this week, with gusting winds and chilly temperatures giving the field fits through the first three rounds. Hatton was among its victims. He posted a solid even-par 72 on Thursday, but his scores devolved from there.

Friday: 73.

Saturday: 79, including two doubles and a triple.

Sunday: 80, including two doubles.

“I’m glad it’s over,” Hatton said after his fourth round. “I think that’s a pretty good way to sum it up. Obviously, disappointed, but I just never do well here. This course doesn’t really suit my eye, to be honest, so, yeah, it’s just one of those weeks that I feel like if I come back in the future, it’s just a case of trying to get through the best that I can.”

If I come back is not a phrase you hear often from the game’s best players — Hatton is ranked 16th in the world — when it comes to the Masters. But that’s what this course has done to the 30-year-old Englishman. He’s frustrated, flummoxed, fed up. Hatton’s primary beef: the slick topsy-turvy greens and the severe banks and mounding that surround them.  

“You can hit good shots here and not get any reward for it. It’s unfair at times,” Hatton said. “I don’t agree with that. If you hit a good shot, you should end up near the hole — not short-sided into a bunker because of the slopes that they’ve created and stuff. Yeah, I don’t think it’s a fair test at times, and when you hit good shots and you’re not rewarded for it, it shows.”

“It’s not even trying to build on anything for next week. I’m just trying to ideally get off the golf course as fast as possible.”

Complaints about how the Masters tournament committee sets up the course aren’t common but they’re not unprecedented, either. Lee Trevino famously has never been fond of the course. Same goes for Tom Weiskopf, the 1973 British Open winner who is now a respected course designer. “Back in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, alone there are four courses…as good as Augusta,” Weiskopf said in 1978. “You can go elsewhere, too, and find other courses that play as challengingly without having to resort to putting the pins on slopes and knolls.”

A decade later, Fuzzy Zoeller, who won the green jacket as a Masters rookie in 1979, took a flamethrower to Augusta National, hitting on many of the same notes as Hatton. “I’d like to hear those cheers of Augusta again some time,” Zoeller said. “It’s not the same place any more. It’s like going into a morgue. No screamin’, yellin’, hollerin’.”

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And this was after Zoeller had shot a 66.

“I get angry,” he continued. “When I hit a good shot, I like to be semi-rewarded . . . We don’t mind fast greens, but when you see guys hit their best shot in there and it bounds 40 feet. … You can go elsewhere, too, and find other courses that play as challengingly without having to resort to putting the pins on slopes and knolls.”

Hatton didn’t say which holes or shots in particular irked him Sunday, but a quick review of his round reveals a couple of potential candidates. On the par-3 3rd, he hit his tee shot into the upper-middle portion of the green, but it didn’t hold, trundling off the back edge. At the par-5 15th, his wedge approach trampolined off the back of the green, leaving him a dastardly chip to a back pin. (He made bogey.)

The speed and breaks of Augusta’s greens also proved a mighty challenge for Hatton. Statistically, he is the best putter on the PGA Tour this season, but through the first two rounds this week, he was dead last in Putts Per Hole. In the third round, Hatton ran a 30-footer on the 13th green 6 feet past the cup. When he missed the comebacker for double-bogey, Hatton wielded his putter like a rifle and pretended to fire off shots.

“I think it’s how the course is set up in general,” he said Sunday afternoon, still licking his wounds after finishing 17 over. “You don’t really have to miss a shot, and your next one you’ll have — you’re really struggling to make par. With how it runs off the greens here and the slopes that you are then chipping into and how obviously it’s cut, it just makes it really hard to even get chip shots close. I think everything is exaggerated here.”

A reporter pointed out to Hatton that on other courses that haven’t suited his eye, he still has found a way to play well. But that has decidedly not been the case at this Masters.

“Yeah,” Hatton said. “I haven’t enjoyed it.”

alan bastable

Alan Bastable

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.