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  • Alistair Tait

Blasphemy Or Brutal Honesty?

Tyrrell Hatton’s verbal tirade on the course that Bobby Jones and Dr Alister MacKenzie built needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. He’d just shot 79, 80 for the last two rounds to finish last of those who made the cut in the 86th Masters.

No wonder he came off the golf course and lambasted it.

But is he right? Is Augusta National the unfairest test of golf when set up to ensure the world’s best don’t rip it to shreds?

Here’s a taste of what Hatton said after the final round:

"You can hit good shots here and not get any reward for it. It's unfair at times. I don't agree with that."
"If you hit a good shot, you should end up near the hole. Not then short-sided into a bunker because of the slopes that they've created and stuff. I don't think it's a fair test at times, and when you hit good shots and you're not rewarded for it, it shows."
"You don't really have to miss a shot, and your next one you'll have -- you're really struggling to make par. With how it runs off the greens here and the slopes that you are then chipping into and how obviously it's cut, it just makes it really hard to even get chip shots close. I think everything is exaggerated here."
"I haven't enjoyed it. . . .
"I feel like I've hit good shots out there, I've not been rewarded for them, so it's a case of just lose a bit of interest. … I'm just trying to ideally get off the golf course as fast as possible."
"I'm glad it's over. I think that's a pretty good way to sum it up,”Hatton added. “I feel like if I come back in the future, it's just a case of trying to get through the best that I can."

That last line may not be his choice. Given the Masters is an invitational tournament, and considering how precious the green jackets are about promoting Augusta National’s pristine image, Hatton may not get invited back.

I say well done Tyrrell for daring to offer up a vastly different perspective from the over the top guff we constantly hear about Augusta’s green and oh so manicured land.

TV commentators David Feherty and Gary McCord were for all intents and purposes banned from covering the Masters for having the temerity to talk about the course in remotely pejorative terms. After four days of listening to TV coverage this year, it’s hard to recall even one minor criticism of the golf course. In fact, given the ebullient manner in which announcers gush about all things Masters and Augusta National, you’d think a mandatory dose of Prozac is prescribed for every commentator before they go on air.

Oh, for the days when Peter Alliss dared to call Augusta’s putting surfaces “silly.”

I count myself luck to have covered The Masters, and even play seven and a half holes (long story not worth telling here). Like everyone else, it was a thrill to stand on the property on my first visit. I even crossed the Hogan bridge and stood on the 13th tee. However, on subsequent visits I couldn’t help but feel I was standing on a course just a wee bit too perfect. Remember that movie The Stepford Wives?

The late Bob Torrance walked the entire golf course on his first visit. I bumped into him as he was finishing his tour and he said:

“Alistair, there are no weeds. None. That's almost unbelievable.”

Torrance, who was a part time greenkeeper at Routenburn in his early days, was amazed. Just as others are that the ponds are just a bit too blue, the divot mix has green dye in it and the azaleas are in blossom at just the right time every spring.

Hatton isn’t alone. Lee Trevino wasn’t a fan, turning down invitations on several occasions.

Mind you, Hatton may change his mind as Lee Westwood did after saying the Old Course…

“…wouldn’t be in my top 200 – in Fife!”

Bobby Jones came to love the Old Course after hating it on his first visit, while no end of players have lambasted the sacred links of St Andrews.

Hatton is correct to say Augusta can be extremely unfair. That’s obvious just from watching it on television. Tiger Woods won’t share Hatton’s hate, but he knows better than most that if you have a putt from above the flag on the 14th green then good luck getting it close, as he proved in the final round when he faced a second putt of approximately 50-foot.

Is Hatton committing blasphemy or should we praise him for having the courage to venture where so few have dared go and be brutally honest?

#JustSaying: “If you have an ego of any sort, this course (Augusta National) will take it and shove it down your throat.” Tom Watson


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