With more rain expected at the Masters on Thursday and Friday, Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said the club may consider allowing the players to lift, clean and place balls that land in the fairway and end up covered in mud or debris. It’s an allowance that no one can remember occurring in the tournament’s history.
“We surely would not want to have to do that,” Payne said. “That would be a decision very difficult to make. However, we are also bright enough to know that weather conditions can have an impact on that, and possibly cause us to change our minds on that issue.”
Though Augusta National uses state-of-the-art equipment to keep the course dry, there is concern that more rain will soften the course to the point that it could become a “birdie-fest,” as Phil Mickelson predicted Tuesday.
“Clearly the golf course will not be as firm and fast as it would otherwise be,” competition committee chairman Fred Ridley said. “We are very confident that we will have comparable tournament speed greens with our SubAir system.
“Admittedly we won’t have the firmness, but we think that we have looked at a setup that takes all of that into consideration, as we always do with weather considerations; and we think it’s going to be a good setup for tomorrow and we will just keep our fingers crossed that we get the round in.”
Nick Faldo, a three-time Masters champion, said damp conditions may open the field.
“They will be able to attack it,” he said. “There’s a trade-off, the course will play longer but the greens are soft. For these guys it makes it easy. The ball will stay on the green where you hit it.
“That was the great defense of Augusta. When you have super-fast greens, it doesn’t matter if you have a wedge on your hand, you still have to work out where you land it, where it’s going to finish, where it’s going to roll. It’s not as straight forward as aim and fire. If it’s soft, then you can.
“In theory, that will make life easy, but who knows who much rain we’re going to get. It’s going to be good.”
The storms began Tuesday night. A fallen tree destroyed the restroom near the No. 16 tee, and the rains washed out several bunkers.
Payne said they were trying to rebuild the restroom by the end of the day, and that the bunkers would be ready by the start of the tournament Thursday.
Stewart Cink may not have the results he wants as he continues to change his swing, but he knows that when he can trust himself to swing well, the ball likes it.
“I wish I could tell you that I’m brimming with confidence, but my game is a work in progress,” the Georgia Tech grad and Duluth resident said. “I knew it was going to be a rough transition at times, and it has and it will. It’d be great if I could just take off a bunch of time, and totally implement the changes and come out here and be a new golfer but it doesn’t work like that.”
Cink will tee off in his 15th Masters at 8:56 a.m. Thursday. He is in the field by virtue of winning the 2009 British Open, which provides a five-year automatic berth in the Masters.
As he continues to work on his swing, his results have fallen off so much that he wouldn’t have qualified otherwise.
He hasn’t won since taking the Claret Jug at Turnberry. He has just five top-10 finishes in full-field events since. But he believes in what he is doing. He is trying to change the path of his clubhead at impact. He said it began to go too far out to the right. He’s trying to get back to center. Swinging it correctly to him feels like he’s going to the left, demonstrating by leaning over to his left in an awkward pose. He’s trying to overcome that feeling.
“I’m getting it,” he said. “Intuitively I trust what I’m doing; emotionally I don’t trust it yet. I can’t just tell myself to trust it that way. So, when I get under the gun and my old stuff starts to creep back in at that time I’m in between and that’s not a good place to be.”
He theorizes that the difficulties of Augusta may help him.
“This golf course catches your attention to where it might bring out a heightened level of focus, and I could come out there and play awesome,” he said. “One thing I know for sure is I’m going to have an awesome time playing.”
Thirty-five people have been arrested in Augusta this week, as of Wednesday afternoon, for trying to scalp Masters tickets, according to Capt. Bill Reeves of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
Selling or purchasing the tickets inside a 2,700-foot buffer zone around Augusta National Golf Club’s property is considered a misdemeanor. The first offense is punishable by a $500 cash bond. Subsequent offenses result in a $1,000 cash bond.
Reeves said most of the arrests have occurred in the parking lot opposite the course along Berckmans Road.