The Non-LIV Topics at the Masters: Golf Balls and Groupings

The talk at the Masters Tournament is about possible changes to the ball, the week's stormy forecast and the par-3 course's face-lift.

The Non-LIV Topics at the Masters: Golf Balls and Groupings

AUGUSTA (Ga.) -- There are still debates outside of LIV Golf at this year’s Masters Tournament. And none is more heated than the one over the future golf ball.

Last month, weighed down by the gaudy stats, the R&A, and the U.S. Golf Association proposed that elite players would use a ball which does not fly as far in a few short years.

The food was not very good.

Bubba Watson said, in an interview the day before the announcement, "Let's be athletic." Let's try to find new ways to hit it better, straighter and farther.

Justin Thomas, winner of two P.G.A. Championships, was even more pointed about the idea. The idea was brought up even more strongly by supporters, who estimated that it would reduce the distance of tee shots for top golfers to about 15 yards.

They're basing their calculations on the top 0.1 per cent of golfers. You know what you mean? He said. "I don't even know how many people play golf here regularly, but I can assure you that none of you has ever said to me, 'I'm hitting the ball so straight and far today, golf is just no fun at all.'

Tiger Woods was one of Thomas's closest golfing friends, but it wasn't until Tuesday that the public heard his voice.

Woods stated that 'the guys will become more athletic'. Woods said that everyone will get stronger and faster with the passing of generations.

Woods stated that a change "should have been made a long time back." Woods added a few moments later: "Amateurs should be allowed to enjoy themselves and hit the ball far. But we can regulate how far we are able hit it."

Woods's concerns are partly rooted in the limitations of golf courses. Augusta National Golf Club possessed the space and resources to extend the 13th hole by 35 yards. Not all courses -- even great ones -- do. Woods said that a modified ball could make for a more sophisticated and better sport.

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Woods stated that it was exciting to watch Rory McIlroy drive the ball 340 yards at every hole on tour. But does it separate those who are able to hit the ball right in the middle and have control over their shots from the rest? If you roll the ball a bit back, you will see that those who are better at striking the ball in the middle of the face and controlling their shots have an advantage.

If the governing body decides to make the change, a decision that is many months off, the onus will be placed on the golf ball manufacturers to create products that are compliant with the new rule. This would ban all balls that travel over 317 yards if struck at speeds greater than 127 miles an hour.

Companies are already worried, but they're also preparing for their reactions.

Dan Murphy, president and chief executive at Bridgestone Golf, stated in an Augusta National clubhouse interview on Tuesday that he would be researching the issue and determining what he would do. I don't believe we have a option.

Murphy, like many other manufacturers is concerned about confusing consumers by offering a variety of new equipment options. Bridgestone, however, expects Woods to play a part in the design of any new equipment. He will help refine aerodynamics and trajectory as well as feel and spin.

Adam Rehberg is a Bridgestone official working on research and development. We still need to ensure the ball is able to do all that they require.

They will need it, of course.

The groupings have been removed. Plan your trip accordingly.

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Most of the players on Thursday and Friday are in three-player groups. The most interesting groups are listed below (all times Eastern).

9:36 am: Mackenzie Hughes and Thomas Pieters (12.48 pm Friday).

10:18 a.m.: Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele and Tiger Woods (1:24 p.m. Friday)

10:42 am: Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas (1:48 pm Friday)

10:54 am: Sungjae im, Hideki matsuyama and Cameron Smith (2:00 pm Friday)

11:54 am: Brooks Koepka Danny Willett Gary Woodland (8.48 am Friday)

Tom Hoge and Si Woo Kim (9:12 am Friday)

Corey Conners (at 1:12 p.m.), Dustin Johnson, and Justin Rose (10.06 a.m. on Friday)

Matt Fitzpatrick (10:18 am Friday), Collin Morikawa, and Will Zalatoris (1:24 p.m.)

1:36 pm: Sam Bennett and Max Homa (10:30 am Friday).

1:48 pm: Sam Burns and Tom Kim (10:42 am Friday).

Two p.m. : Tony Finau (Tony Fleetwood, Tommy Spieth and Jordan Spieth) (10:54 am Friday).

ESPN will begin broadcasting the rounds on Thursday and Friday at 3 pm. Augusta National will be streamed live on the Masters Tournament website.

The weather looks like a major problem.

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You may want to think about a back-up plan if you're planning to stay up all night Saturday to watch the match. The forecast is getting worse.

Augusta National's forecast for Thursday says there is a 40% chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. On Friday, there will be a 70 per cent chance of precipitation including isolated thunderstorms.

On Saturday, it's 'cloudy and colder with breezy conditions. There is a 90-percent chance of rain. It could rain heavily at times. Winds could reach up to 25 miles an hour.

The forecast high temperature is also 52 degrees.

Spring!

The par-3 golf course has been given a makeover.

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This week, the 13th hole on Augusta National’s primary course attracted most attention as players sized up this year's 35-yard longer hole. Fred Couples responded on Monday to a question about the hole: "Well, I would probably be excited if I was 30." At 63 I find it incredible. I'm not going to do it.

On Wednesday afternoon the par-3 nine-hole course in an obscure corner of Augusta National will be at center stage. This informal Wednesday contest was first held at the course in 1960 and is popular among players and fans. After some off-season modifications, the course will play differently this year. This includes a rerouting and new putting surface for the first five golf holes. Augusta National has said that the greens will be used as a "testing ground" for any changes on the main course. They now have a new type of bentgrass.

Augusta National said that it has also installed a new irrigation and expanded the complex to include concessions, merchandise and restrooms.

Watson, in an interview conducted last month, said that the area had been redesigned.

How did they manage to do it in only 150 days? Money and manpower is how they do it.

LIV players and PGA Tour participants might both agree on this.