Commentary: Fred Ridley’s remarks on 13th hole speak loudly on distance

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 02: Sergio Garcia of Spain signs balls during a practice round prior to the start of the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 2, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Commentary: Fred Ridley’s remarks on 13th hole speak loudly on distance

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Commentary: Fred Ridley’s remarks on 13th hole speak loudly on distance

AUGUSTA, Ga. — In his remarks Wednesday, Masters chairman Fred Ridley delivered the golf five families equivalent of an ultimatum: let’s all get along when it comes to the distance issue.

“Although differing views may well, in fact, exist on the subject among golf’s major stakeholders, we hope and strongly encourage all who are a part of our sport to work together in the best interest of the game as this important issue evolves,” Ridley said during his news conference.

Asked if he felt burdened to be the tiebreaking vote between the distance-concerned U.S. Golf Association and R&A, and the distance-loving PGA Tour and PGA of America, Ridley said, “I think that we have an open line of communication, I think that our opinions are received, respectfully, and I think that that dialogue will continue as this issue evolves. So I’m not worried at all about that.”

Pressed on how distance increases have impacted Augusta National, where he said the club does not think that additional length should be the immediate or only reaction to what we continue to observe in the Masters, Ridley opened up.

“There’s a great quote from Bobby Jones dealing specifically with the 13th hole, which has been lengthened over time, and he said that the decision to go for the green in two should be a momentous one,” Riley said. “And I would have to say that our observations of these great players hitting middle and even short irons into that hole is not a momentous decision.”

With that declaration, that the club’s most important hole has been impacted by changes in the game, Ridley’s tone and ensuing comments made clear he is tired of seeing added tees, fairways grown long and mown toward tees and other steps taken to keep Augusta National relevant.

While he may be a new chairman, his previous 11 years have been as head of the tournament’s rules and championship operation. He has seen changes in the game and sounded like someone who has seen enough.

“From our perspective, we will always do what’s necessary to maintain the integrity of our golf course,” Ridley said. “But as I said in my comments, I don’t think that’s the only approach to this. So my hope is that every organization, every stakeholder involved will look at this issue from a holistic basis and not only what might be in the best interests of their own organization.”

That was a less-than-subtle poke at the PGA Tour and PGA of America, each recently rebutting Ridley’s pals at the USGA and R&A, who are signaling concerns about increasing driving distances impacting the role of certain skills.

While the words were strong, Ridley left open the door for forgiveness. By invoking the club founder’s name and a determination to defend his design principles, Ridley was hardly breaking from the comments of past chairmen.

But in suggesting that No. 13, the most tempting risk-reward par 5 in golf has been compromised and no longer poses a momentous decision?

That was a momentous turn in the discussion on distance.

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