Will and unlimited resources make an irresistible combination. Thus, it was reported Monday in the Augusta Chronicle that Augusta National, after considerable wrangling, bought the land necessary to enlarge heaven.
Or just it’s corner of it – Amen Corner to be precise.
The home of the Masters bought a piece of the neighboring Augusta Country Club that borders the back side of No. 12 green and No. 13 tee box. The transaction would allow Augusta National to lengthen the 510-yard 13th hole that Curtis Strange once called “the best par-5 in the world.”
It has been long believed that Augusta National coveted its neighbor’s land to both move back the 13th tee box (already in another ZIP code from the nearest tournament patron) and further isolate itself from the world beyond its curtain of pines. Who wants to see those hacks at the country club butchering their ninth hole while taking in the sacred ditch that is Rae’s Creek?
Any potential change to the Masters layout is the golf equivalent of a Charlize Theron face-lift. You are working here on the periphery of perfection. Please, Billy Payne, wield the scalpel with care because this part of the Augusta National property lies at the heart of the Masters.
The risk-reward nature of No. 13 was most famously demonstrated by Phil Mickelson in 2010 when, against his caddie’s pleadings, he smoked a 6-iron out of the pine straw and the timber onto the green on his way to the green jacket.
But technology has eroded the dangers of the dogleg left hole, its fairway bordered by thickets of azaleas, and the green fronted by a tributary of Rae’s Creek. It’s the length of some par 4s today, and is subject to being overpowered by the new generation of golfers who made the conscious decision to become athletes and the miracle metals in their bags.
In this year’s Masters, No. 13 played as the easiest hole, nearly a half-stroke below par (4.63 average). Tiger Woods, for instance, has played the hole in a lifetime combined 48 under, although not lately.
Safe to assume that alterations to a signature hole are coming. Further proof that a place and a tournament known for its devotion to tradition is really ever-evolving. Change has got to come, especially so under chairman Payne’s watch. Whether that’s a media center that could house the United Nations, or a hospitality area that would have made even Bobby Jones loosen his tie, or a 13th hole that is as expandable as a good pair of sweat pants.
Imagine it, and they can do it at Augusta National. Almost anything is within the grasp of an institution that couldn’t be more flush if it had a secret underground mint printing tender beneath Butler Cabin.
So, go ahead, keep getting muscled up, golfers. Add all the firepower you want to your arsenal. Augusta National will just keep expanding. It hasn’t even started to buy South Carolina yet.