Why the Masters Is Both the Easiest and Hardest Major to Win
Some things and some people get older and meaner with age.
Augusta National is older and a lot meaner than it used to be.
Spent enough time there in the days of Jack and Gary and Fuzzy, walked no less than 200 holes there, got to know that glorious track a bit, and it is glorious.
When you step foot on the grounds for the first time, you know you are at golf's Mecca. It is like they say—a place like no other. If you're fortunate enough to be there before the crowds, it is quiet, beyond beautiful and hallowed.
You sense all the great players who have walked the fairways. You know the great moments, the stunning and amazing collection of incredible shots at opportune times.
There's an old saying that you don't go to Augusta to find your game; you better have it with you when you get there. It was true back then and still true today.
The Masters has long been considered the easiest and toughest major to win.
It is the easiest because the actual number of players truly capable of winning is typically 20 to 30. It is the easiest because it is the only major played at the same site.
It is the hardest because of the demands of this course. Used to be that a player could survive from the tree line. That is no longer the case.
Used to be a guy could stage an incredible back nine charge. Remember Nicklaus' back nine 30 in 1986? Not sure anyone can shoot 30 on that nine these days.
This Augusta track, with the changes made after 2005, is longer, meaner, and certainly a thorough examination of a player's game.
Short game is paramount. It has always been that way.
Back in 1978 Jerry Pate made me hit some putts on the practice green. Suddenly I knew firsthand what slick was. Then Pate issued this challenge:
"I'll take you and put you on every green in regulation, let me pick the spot you putt from, and you won't break 90 out there!"
Jerry knew what he was talking about, and to this day I tell folks about that. When you see the greens in person, you know you'd lose the challenge easily.
The greens are Augusta's foremost defense. It's always been that way and always will be.
Now the fairways are tighter and the golf course is longer in retaliation to the technology for golf balls and clubs.
The wind at Augusta is the foremost variable. When it blows, things can get very, very dicey. When it's down, Augusta can still be had.
It will be that way when Jack and Arnold hit a couple of drives early Thursday morning to open the tournament.
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