Augusta builds up the barricades

It would be fair to say that the members of Augusta National have a reputation for being more crusty than the greens have been this week. Fair, but not entirely accurate.

On Wednesday, the club chairman, Jack Stephens, responded to the perennial question about when television would be permitted to provide live coverage of the front nine holes by saying that negotiations between the club and the CBS network were proceeding "slowly". Another reporter asked why movement was so glacial. Stephens paused for a moment before replying drily: "Because we don't want to show it." So do not bet on it happening any time soon.

A more sadistic form of humour - or at least that is how some players would depict it - is displayed in the way the course is set up. Although the chairman of the quaintly named competition committee, Will Nicholson, got his retaliation in first by asserting before this year's tournament "the greens are soft and substantially the same speed as last year", there weren't many players who agreed with him after Thursday.

Only seven of them broke par. Sandy Lyle, who shot 73, said they were as hard and fast as when he won in 1988. That year, recalled Lyle's then caddie, Dave Musgrove, "they almost turned blue on the Saturday". Lyle was not suggesting any element of approval in making the comparison either. He described the greens on Thursday, which he twice was unable to hold with two perfectly struck 7-irons, as "getting close to silly". But no laughing matter.

The device used for measuring the speed of greens is called a stimpmeter. Augusta National's are estimated to rate between 12 and 14. We can't be more positive than that because the club officials won't say, and they won't let anyone else measure them. When exceptional speed is combined with the extravagant slopes encountered on holes like the 14th, the combined effect means the exercise of trying to stop some putts below the hole has been appositely likened to trying to stop a ball on the third step from the bottom of a marble staircase. Nick Price guessed the course could play to as much as 50 on the Stimpmeter in some places.

It was with all this in mind that Paul Stankowski spent part of the previous week putting on the garage floor of his home in Dallas. He reckoned that "was running at about 23". Any temptation to laugh at this unusual practice regimen had to be stifled on Thursday when Stankowski shot a four-under- par 68 to lie just a shot off the pace, a lead he would have held himself if John Huston hadn't obviated the need to putt his putter to the test on the 18th by holing out with a 5-iron.

Frighteningly quick greens are an Augusta tradition. Indeed, the club, although only 63 years old, is synonymous with that word. But whereas some alleged purists complained at the revelation that some new tees were to be built on the Old Course at St Andrews, to lengthen the links in order to keep the advances in technology in check, at Augusta such stuff has been going on for years.

In the last couple of years, the extra 20 yards on the 13th and the additional five on the 10th have been openly declared. Sometimes, however, such alterations are done more discreetly, and competitors have arrived to find the tee on some hole is slightly farther back than before, or a swale has been inserted on the 13th to make the chip back more difficult, or some elephant mounds have mysteriously appeared on the 15th to make the drive more demanding. The club doesn't simply want to leave it to those notorious greens to be its line of defence.

There are, however, some things even the Augusta committee cannot control. Well, at least one. The weather. An especially warm spring hastened the appearance of the blossoms. Green is more than ever the predominant colour on the grounds, when there is also supposed to be an extravagant array of pinks, purples and yellows in the 365 acres of what was a horticultural nursery.

One thing is for sure. Mother Nature is not likely to be invited to become Augusta's first female member.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert