Why I love the new Augusta National

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- I love the new Augusta National. Then again, I love inner ear infections, snail cobbler, and watching waitresses get stiffed on tips.

Listen hard and you can still hear the screams echoing through the pines from Friday's second round of The Masters. It was great. High scorer gets one of those prized Augusta National green strait jackets.

Charles Howell III needed IV shots to get out of a greenside bunker on the par 4, 505-yard 11th hole. With each whack, 22-handicappers everywhere pointed at their TV sets and said, "I can do that." Howell, who committed golf suicide in front of the hometown patrons, took a 9 on the hole, an 84 for the round, and a combined 164 -- dead last -- for the tournament. He was last seen curled in the fetal position in the corner of the scorer's shack.

How can you not have a crush on a round when there was a 10, two 9s, and two 8s recorded? In all, 11 players shot 78 or higher. The Red Cross supplied the tourniquets. And out of the 16 players on the top 10 of the Masters leaderboard, only your halfway leader, Chad Campbell, and the guy tied for 10th place, Olin Browne, broke 70.

I love the new Augusta National because it's longer (155 additional yards), tree-ier, and, as a bonus, thicker around the fairway edges. Add those Friday afternoon winds and the usual Mach 4 speed on these greens and you've got yourself a wonderfully brutal tournament. Ahhhhh.

The second round was a day of grimaces, peptic ulcers and grown men muttering under their breaths. John Daly shot his usual got-a-custom-bus-to-catch 79. Fred Funk was in one after his 81. David Duval (owner of that 10) shot 75, which, scarily enough, was nine strokes better than his opening 84. And then there was the 26-year-old Howell, who somehow finished just behind 68-year-old Charles Coody. Coody, the 1971 Masters winner, had two rounds to remember: 89-74.

CBS goes nuts with the Miss America shots of Augusta National (lots of azalea and Hogan Bridge close-ups), and the soothing guitar music, and the hushed, reverential prose of the Nantzer. But the course is still as nasty as a junkyard dog, no matter how many coats of lipstick you put on its jowls.

Look at the leaderboard. All members of the Big Five -- Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Tiger Woods -- are there. Singh is at 3 under, tied for second and three shots behind Campbell. Lefty and Els are at 2 under, and Tiger and Goosen are at 1 under. They survived because they played Augusta National as if it were a U.S. Open course, which it sort of is now.

"I would not say it resembles the U.S. Open because the rough isn't rough; it's first cut," said Mickelson. "But the penalty for a missed tee shot on a number of holes now is U.S. Open-type of penalties."

Sorry, Phil, but Els isn't buying it.

"It's rough now," he said. "You've got to be careful how the ball comes out of there."

OK, it isn't lose-a-charter-jet-in-there-high rough, but it's thicker than usual. And some of the pin positions were set by Satan. And the greens are faster than a slalom run. And did I mention the extra trees?

"I enjoy tournaments where if you shoot a round in the 60s, you've earned it and you're going to move up the board," said Woods. "I think that's what major championships are all about. This week, that's how it's playing. I'm 1-under par and I'm in 10th. That's pretty good. That just goes to show you that the course setup is difficult. The wind is swirling out there, but overall it's fair."

Maybe it's just a coincidence, or maybe Augusta National really is playing like a U.S. Open Jr., but Woods, Els and Goosen have a combined six Open titles between them, while Mickelson has three seconds and Singh has a third-place finish.

"I can see a lot of backtracking happening over the weekend," said Els.

Just like an Open.

What a weird week. Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman got shot at in his car. Rocco Mediate is still tied for second. Fifty-four-year-old Ben Crenshaw is still in the top 10. Phil is carrying two drivers in his bag. Coody went from an 89 on Day One to 74 on Day Two.

"They told me in the tent there I'd probably get Most Improved," said Coody.

Coody won't be here for the weekend, which might be a blessing. Thunderstorms are supposed to arrive Saturday, which will turn the previously dry and hard fairways into semi-mush. Goodbye, roll. Hello, more screams.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.