with Robert Bicknell
I was having a nice chat with a friend on the practice green today and he mentioned that, according to the Tour pros he's spoken with during his jaunts to Tour events, and they claim the Masters is the easiest of the major events to win.
I would agree with that because the Masters is always held on the same golf course every year - Augusta National. However, what many people don't realize is that the course undergoes very subtle changes during the extended closed period. Unlike many golf courses in the US, Augusta National is only open for play for about seven months of the year. During the down time, they work to make sure the course will be perfect when it reopens.
It's become a bit of a game for the Tour pros. They play their first practice round and try to figure out what has changed.
So, it's a known tournament on a known course at a known time of year. It's always the same. That alone would make it easier than other majors with rotating locations.
But it's the Masters, and that alone carries a lot of weight. Need I remind anyone of the greens at Augusta which can have a Stimp reading of around 16 at times? The oldest joke on Tour is "try putting in your bath tub and stop the ball before it goes down the drain".
That, my friends, is fast.
The Masters is also the only major where you have to be invited, unlike the US or British Open's, which are exactly that…"open". Anyone with a handicap of 2 or less and can get through the regional and sectional qualifying rounds can play in the Opens.
To get into the Masters, you have to have won something, finished high enough in the previous year's Masters, finished high enough in another major, or been high enough on the money list.
The US Open, in my opinion is always the hardest major to win for the simple fact that the USGA tends to set up the course to kill and humiliate the best players in the world. Perhaps, they were never breastfed as infants, or simply hate great golfers. We will never know why.
The US Open takes a challenging layout, then makes the fairways more narrow and firmer. Some fairways actually have a stimpmeter reading faster than some greens in Viet Nam. As for the greens, they are usually rock hard and lightning fast. Figure a stimp reading of around 12-14. They also grow the rough to ridiculous lengths. If you get into the deep stuff, most often the only thing you can do is take a sand wedge and blast back to the fairway. Forget about going for the green.
I played The Country Club (Brookline, MA) in 1988 on the day after the US Open. Normally, I would shoot 68 there (I was a +3 hdcp), but I was lucky to walk off that day with a 78. The course was drastically different than it's normal set up. Where I would usually hit a Driver, I had to use a 5-iron because the fairways were so firm and fast the ball would roll like hell. Any approach to the green had to drop vertical for any hope of stopping. High fades were the rule for the day.
It was a battle on every hole.
The R&A, on the other hand, are more rational. They set up a course to be challenging, but not murderous. They let the weather provide the teeth for the course and the drama. This seems to be more fair in my opinion. There is no trickery. Nothing artificial. It's pure golf as it was meant to be.
I've played St Andrews Old Course back in the early 80's and shot 67. I walked off wondering what the big deal was. The caddie warned me that I shouldn't be too proud… because it was a nice sunny day with little wind. A rarity for that place.
The next day was "normal" weather - wind, rain and cold. I shot 88 and considered myself lucky.
So, yes, I agree that the Masters is easier, if you're a great putter. But the British Open is easier if there is no wind. The US Open, is only easy if you take Valium… — VNS