It was a day when the Augusta National course record was threatened several times. But do we like seeing a birdie-fest around this hallowed corner of Georgia? Two of our writers disagree…
Yes, low scores at Augusta National are exciting
I don’t watch professional sport to see the athletes struggle, writes Alex Perry.
I watch professional sport because they can do things I can’t. If I wanted to watch golfers rolling in double bogeys, I’d take a wander round my club during the monthly medal.
In what other sport do we do this? Fails happen – we saw a few on Friday – and they are often very funny. But on the regular? No thanks.
When I watch football, I want to see screamers in the top corner. When I watch cricket, I want to see enormous sixes. When I watch tennis, I want to see majestic cross-court backhand winners.
And when I watch golf, I want to see birdies and eagles.
I want to see records broken.
Before this year there had never been an entire Masters tournament with more than one score of 64. On Saturday alone there were three. Take a bow Tony Finau, Webb Simpson and Patrick Cantlay.
This was the perfect storm – guys were going low but records remained intact as no-one quite managed to match the course record posted by both Nick Price in 1986 and Greg Norman a decade later, the only players to shoot 63 at the Masters.
The patrons don’t go wild for par saves. I accept it one week a year at the US Open, that’s enough for me.
“Augusta National was there for the taking,” said Tommy Fleetwood after his round.
And wasn’t it great to watch?
No, Augusta National needs to be tougher
If you expect me to jump out of my chair every time a tour pro hits it into what is effectively an enormous plug hole then you have come to the wrong shop, writes Dan Murphy.
Yes, that’s the Saturday pin on 14 and the Sunday one on the 16th, to name but two.
So often, we are led to believe that the magic of the Masters is at work when the birdies and eagles rain down. I’m afraid the truth is more mundane.
The prestidigitation at Augusta National usually comes in the form of cutting holes in large bowls. The giveaway is how often you see approach shots holed. That only happens when the target is made artificially large.
The third-round 64s from Finau and Simpson catapulted them out of the pack and to the top of the leaderboard.
Which brings me on to my second point.
By the time the leaders had played just a couple of holes of their third round, they had already been overtaken. Now that makes for excitement but it’s not especially fair.
It had taken 36 holes of consistent excellence for the likes of Francesco Molinari and Brooks Koepka to take their place at the top. Two hours of thrills and spills early on Saturday was enough to negate that.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of a Saturday charge. But it shouldn’t be this easy. You should have to play attritional golf well over four days to win a major.
At its best, Augusta strikes an almost perfect balance between the mesmerising prospect of a momentum-shifting eagle and the imminent disaster of an ugly six or seven.
When there is too much of the former and not enough of the latter it is diminished as a golf course and, by extension, so is the Masters as a tournament.