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 fairways and greens to the point that it could become a “birdie-fest,” as Phil Mickelson predicted on 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. The resulting clean-up resulted in the gates, which normally open at 8 a.m., staying closed until 8:40.
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 on Thursday.
– Doug Roberson, AJC