Masters Chairman: Rules Out Augusta-Only Golf Ball But Not Measures To Protect The Course Integrity

While Masters Chairman Fred Ridley dispelled any talk of an Augusta tournament golf ball the club will not rule out measures to help protect the integrity of Augusta National.

And those measures could include looking to ‘other options’ if not happy with decisions of golf’s two ruling authorities – the R & A and USGA.

Ridley, who indicated he’s now been a member at the famed Georgia club for 20-years, delivered the now ‘State of the Masters’ address an hour before noon local US time.

Much has been stated in recent years of Augusta National becoming out-dated as the advances in golf technology leave many courses around the globe at the mercy of today’s drivers.

Augusta National has sought to keep pace with changes to the course that first hosted the Masters in 1934, and sometimes subtle changes that can go unnoticed.

Fred Ridley – Chairman at Augusta National speaking today ahead of the 85th Masters

Major changes since the ‘Tiger Slam’ in 2001 have been a year later with Tom Fazio’s design company lengthening nine holes, adding 285 yards, and made numerous fairway and bunker changes.

In 2006, Fazio returned to push back the tee boxes on six holes, including some that were altered in 2002.

Ahead of the 2019 Masters, Fazio’s team worked on the fifth hole in pushing back the tee 40 yards while the fairway bunkers were repositioned. The green also was “softened.”

Fazio’s additions to the course were initially met with skepticism and with the alteration to No. 5 the first major change to the course in more than a decade.

Then we had the arrival of muscleman Bryson DeChambeau and the fears he raised ahead of last year’s rescheduled Masters that would bring Augusta National to its knees.

That did not happen but instead Dustin Johnson won with a record-setting 20-under par victory tally and Aussie Cameron Smith, who finished joint second and five shots back of ‘DJ’ became the first player in 84 Masters to incredibly post four rounds in the 60s.

Ridley was asked his reaction to Johnson winning at 20-under and given there had been strong rumours, and as reported by Shane Lowry when he played two practice rounds earlier last month, that Augusta would be ‘toughened’ this week so there would not be a repeat of Johnson’s 72-hole victory tally.

“Dustin Johnson’s play was spectacular, and he was the champion that week but we don’t have any prescribed score”, said Ridley.

“The fact that Dustin was 20-under was a combination of his extraordinary play that at the same time, admittedly, the golf course was soft. We had a lot of rain leading up to the Tournament, and I think the time of year combined with the wet conditions produced an extraordinarily soft golf course.

“So, it was ready to be played very well with a lot of red numbers. But that really had nothing to do with the way the golf course is playing right now. We have had ideal weather. We had a cool January, we had a little more rain than normal in February, but all of those conditions have normalized, and you’ve seen the weather the last few days. It’s been terrific.

“This is probably the first year in the last — probably going back to — what year did Adam Scott win? 2013, I think — when we actually came into the week with the golf course playing firm and fast, as it is right now.

“Our intention would be to maintain that throughout the week. In the past, we might have started out a little soft and then got firmer as the week went on and vice versa, and last year we were pretty soft all week. I think we have the golf course where we want it. It’s playing, as I said in my comments, firm and fast, and not only the greens but the fairways. The ball really is rolling.

“You know, Bobby Jones said often he wanted to create an inland links course when he built Augusta National.

“So, when you think about that, we certainly don’t look like a links course because we have a lot of trees, but we can have the characteristics of a links course by having the ground play a big part in how the course is played, and that’s what we are trying to do.”

It prompted Ridley being asked, and it’s a subject that has been mentioned many times, and that is the possibility of Augusta National introducing their own ‘Augusta ball’ and with all players obliged to use an ‘Augusta ball’ in competition.

Well, Ridley buried that notion.

“I know there’s been some talk in the past of possibly a Masters golf ball or something like that. I would think that would be highly unlikely and would, in my view, be an absolute last resort”, said Ridley.

“We have had a long-standing position of supporting the governing bodies. I was very encouraged when I saw the areas of interest that were published by the USGA and R&A recently.

“I know there have been varying opinions among players and others, other stakeholders in golf, and that’s really how the process should work.

“I would add that as far as I understand what is being studied, that part of the study would be – – would not be intended to make it more difficult or to impose regulations that would make it more difficult for higher handicappers to play.

“We are concerned about that issue. Growth of the game is a big issue.

“But our position would be to support the governing bodies, and then if there is no action taken, for whatever reason, then we need to look at other options with regard to our golf course and what we can do to continue to challenge these great golfers and maintain the design integrity that was initially adopted by Mr. Jones and Mr. MacKenzie”.

Augusta National is constantly adapting as reflected in the last 20-years with some 590-yards added so that this year it will play to 7,475 yards.

As is customary, the Augusta chairman addressed a number of other pertinent issues.

Hereunder is a selection.

Tiger Woods Absence

Like all of you, I was deeply saddened when I learned of Tiger’s tragic car accident in February. Tiger Woods is one of the greatest competitors in the history of all sports, and he is and forever will be a part of the fabric of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament.

Our thoughts are with Tiger and his family and loved ones with whom he shares such a close bond. He is greatly missed this week, and we continue to hope and pray for his recovery.

Lee Elder Joining Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an Honorary Starter

As we prepare for the opening round tomorrow morning, we look forward to the historic occasion that we announced in November. Lee Elder, the first Black man to compete in the Masters, will join our great champions Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus for tomorrow’s Honorary start to the Tournament.

This week marks 60 years since Gary became the first international Masters Champion. It also is the 35th anniversary of Jack’s record sixth green jacket. And tomorrow morning we also will reflect on the moment at Augusta National in 1975 when Lee Elder bravely broke barriers as his name was announced on the first tee.

And I cannot wait to have the honour of introducing Lee and celebrating his inspiring legacy with our patrons and viewers worldwide

Controversial New Georgia State Voting Law

I believe, as does everyone in our organization, that the right to vote is fundamental in our democratic society.

No one should be disadvantaged in exercising that right. It is critical that all citizens have confidence in the electoral process.

Ridley declined to address whether he supports or opposes the Republican-backed law, which tightens some requirements against absentee voting in particular.

I don’t think that my opinion on this legislation should shape discussion.

I just don’t think that’s going to be helpful to ultimately reaching a resolution.

Return of Patrons but absence of Patron chairs

That’s strictly in response to the health issues that we perceive and we believe are valid. That is a great tradition, and we would expect that would return in 2022.

One thing I want to answer and that is that every traditional group of credential holders whether it be daily ticket holders, badge holders, Berckmans Place holders, all were represented in the tickets that were distributed this year.

And we also were very pleased to be able to provide local healthcare workers, quite a few local healthcare workers, with credentials to watch the Tournament.

Ridley’s Favourite Augusta Food

Do I have a favourite food item? Well, I like them all, but I try to stay away. We have all these sandwiches that you have on the golf course down in the Tournament meeting room, and I used to wander down there frequently; I try to stay away.

That’s one of the great traditions of the Masters Tournament is the pimento cheese and barbecue sandwich and egg salad sandwiches, and we try to provide those at a reasonable price. I think that maybe just sort of adds to the feeling for those.

It’s a great part of the Tournament. I like them all.

Enjoy the 85th Masters ……….

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