Tour Confidential: How could Augusta National make the Masters even better?

April 6, 2020
Augusta National Golf Club

Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week we discuss a week without the Masters, should the Ryder Cup be all captains’ picks, advice on how to keep your game sharp at home, and more.

 1. Sorry, golf fans, but it’s officially what-would-have-been Masters week. Because of the coronavirus, the golf world’s rite of spring has been postponed for the first time since 1945. Yes, it’s a drag, but instead of sulking, let’s use this stretch constructively! With a little extra time on its hands, what improvements could Augusta National make to its invitational?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer: Get rid of the rakes. Put in some nasty beach sand in the bunkers shipped in from the beaches at St. Andrews.

Josh Sens, senior writer (@JoshSens): At this point, the Masters is so dialed in, messing with it much doesn’t make a lot of sense. As an improvement, I propose they stop trying to make improvements. Quit lengthening the course. Let the winning score fall where it may.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer (@Alan_Shipnuck): Eliminate the rough. Chop down a bunch of trees. Stop using precious words like “patrons.” Expand the TV windows. Improve the telecast by incorporating Shot Tracer, ShotLink and other basics the modern fan has come to expect. Lose the treacly piano music in the commercials. Allow reporters to use cellphones on the grounds so we can offer better real-time coverage.

Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): Press CBS to have Tony Romo on the ground at Amen Corner and see if he can predict who’s staying dry. “Ohh, I dunno, Jim! The wind — it’s SWIRLING down here!”

2. President Trump said in a conference call with commissioners from various professional sports, including golf, that he hopes games and tournaments will resume by August or September. Does that timeline seem realistic for the major pro golf tours?

Bamberger: I have no idea. Speculation is not helpful to one’s mental health right now. Trying to make every day productive, I think, is.

Sens: With fans? Hard to imagine. But to echo Michael, I have no clue, and unless Dr. Fauci is on our forum tonight, I don’t think anyone in this discussion would have an especially educated guess.

Shipnuck: Seems wildly optimistic. Even without fans, you’re asking many hundreds of people to fly in from all around the country to conduct and televise the events. Will that be feasible? The heart says yes, but the mind says no.

Dethier: I guess I hope so, too? Insurance claims aside, I like the idea of waiting to cancel events until we have to, at least. It’s nice to have things to look forward to, even if we have to push them back eventually. Needless to say, it’s disheartening to keep seeing cancellations rolling in — but obviously necessary.

3. If the Ryder Cup keeps its place on the calendar (it’s currently scheduled for Sept. 25-27 at Whistling Straits), it’s unlikely much professional golf would be played before that date. When asked by Sportsmail about the status of the matches earlier this week, European captain Padraig Harrington said, “It wouldn’t worry me if we were the first tournament back and I had to go with 12 picks with no qualifying.” Is an all-captains-picks Ryder Cup a viable option? Or would pushing it to 2021 make more sense?

Bamberger: No, it would be great to have the Ryder Cup if you can have it sensibly and safely, and having the captains pick their rosters would be fun. But if the choice is a major or a Ryder Cup, I’d go with a major.

Sens: Absolutely viable, with all the health and safety caveats. Would an all-captains pick roster be wildly different from a regular qualifying roster? Probably not. Besides, at this point, you could outfit 24 hamsters with miniature clubs and set them loose on a course in ugly shirts, and I’d be happy to watch.

Shipnuck: A team of all picks would be a fascinating subplot. Deep down, the captains already know who they want on the team. A lack of qualifying events hurts young players without a big body of work … but so what? We’ll take any Cup we can get.

Dethier: I think Sens is onto something. Josh, did you send that idea to our bosses? But YES, I’m obviously all in on a Ryder Cup comprised of all-picks teams. They’d look extremely similar, I’m sure, to the real thing — but those awkward picks announcements would be so much more fun! Imagine if Captain Woods had had to pick 12 guys from the Woods Jupiter last year. Maybe they should get rid of qualifying systems altogether, because I like this idea regardless of situation.

4. Our Michael Bamberger reported this week that Tiger Woods’ and Phil Mickelson’s camps have been in talks to involve NFL greats Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in a match that would raise funds for Covid-19 relief. (For it to happen, the PGA Tour will need to give its blessing.) The possibility of the match raises the question: In what ways could the PGA Tour get creative and entertain fans/fundraise during the layoff? Would televised challenge matches be a good idea for the Tour to explore?

Bamberger: If you do it with all necessary safeguards, yes. Alex Miceli at Morning Read had the idea of playing it at Augusta National (where Peyton is a member). That would be fun. Could do it just as a club event with no spectators. TV camera stands are already in place.

Sens: Sure. With the right precautions, and for charity only. Already, virtual challenge matches are taking place online. None of the biggest names yet, at least that I’ve seen, but I suspect we’ll see some of that before long. Rory vs. Brooks on a virtual Old Course, or some such. That could be fun.

Dethier: Your caveat about charity made me cringe, Sens, thinking about the picture of Tiger and Phil with piles o’ cash in front of them before The Match v. 1. Feels like a million years ago. For my part, I’d like to see pros play Speedgolf, televised. (The basic rules of speed golf: total strokes + minutes to play 18 = your final score.) You could do the whole thing pretty easily and safely: one drone tracking each player from overhead — no need for any unsafe interaction! Would be an incredible test of stamina, composure, creativity, personality, etc. And there’s a couple guys who I’d love to see run 6 miles.

Shipnuck: Plenty of pros are out playing golf right now anyway. Why not just have a friend live-stream the whole thing? Play for a big chunk of money, and the winner donates it to their charity of choice. Simple and fun.

5. The USGA says a hole-in-one on a raised cup is … a hole-in-one. Our Josh Sens and Luke Kerr-Dineen have already debated the merits of this variety of ace, but where do you stand? Count it, or nah?

Bamberger: No. Of course not. Please. But a good story to tell for years to come.

Sens: Feel free to count it as a 1, just not as a hole-in-one.

Shipnuck: It can’t count as your first — that’s just not right. But if you’ve already made one, I think you can add it to your tally.

Dethier: I feel nasty saying it, because who cares, but no scores played with raised cups should count toward handicaps. Golf without lip-outs? It’s a whole different game! No ace, but as Bamberger says, it’s an even cooler story in some ways.

6. The internet has been teaming with folks showing off how they’ve kept their games sharp (while also staying safe) during the coronavirus outbreak. What’s your best tip for keeping your game on point at home?

Bamberger: Look at Steve Elkington’s swing on YouTube.

Sens: Or Michelle Wie’s, from way back in the day.

Shipnuck: I’ve been hitting flop shots onto my bed. Putting on a slick Perfect Practice mat. Making full swings in the backyard. It ain’t much, but it’s something.

Dethier: Stretching. Yoga. If you’ve always told yourself you would try yoga if you just had the time, well, I’ve got news for you. You’ll thank me!

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