Still More Changes in the Works for Augusta National
``I think '51 was the first year I played, and the 11th tee was almost behind the 10th green,'' Dow Finsterwald said Tuesday morning. ``Then one year, they moved it way back in the woods to the left, and the yardage never changed. And on No. 15, the tee used to be in front of the service road. They moved it behind the road, and it was still 6,925. But it was such a great tournament, nobody ever really raised the question.
``What difference does it make, anyway? Everyone plays from the same tees.''
Some of the tees won't be the same at the 70th Masters this April, and players won't need a scorecard to notice. The official yardage is 7,445 yards, courtesy of changes to six holes that added about 155 yards.
It's the third time in the last six years that Augusta National has strengthened its golf course -- 520 yards since 1999 -- each an attempt to restore the rhythm and shot value the way Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie designed it.
As usual, the new tees look as if they had been there all along.
Players will know better, especially when they leave the practice green for the first tee, which is now a short walk. The tee box has been moved back about 20 yards to make the hole play 455 yards, although change at Augusta National is not all about length.
The eye-opener is that cavernous bunker down the right side, where a finger of turf now dips into the sand and creates the appearance of a double bunker. Balls rarely will be in the middle of the sand, allowing for a routine escape; now there will be steep lips in the way.
Players might get lost on the way to the fourth tee.
It used to be positioned directly behind the third green. Now, take a hard right and go some 40 yards into the woods. Or what used to be woods. Already the meanest par 3 on the course, it now plays up to 240 yards.
Jones gave Sports Illustrated a hole-by-hole description in 1959 and said of the par-3 fourth, ``The shot is usually a strong iron, or even a 4- or 3-wood.''
``It's usually a 6-iron, depending on the wind,'' Retief Goosen said when asked last week how he played No. 4. ``Sometimes, it can be a 5-iron, or even a 4-iron, when the pin is to the right.''
Maybe the Goose should talk to Ben Crane, who played five rounds in four days a few weeks ago. Crane, no short hitter at 61st in driving distance on the PGA Tour this year, hit 3-wood to the green, except the one time the tees were slightly forward. Then he hit 2-iron.
The seventh hole is about a football field longer than when Jose Maria Olazabal won in 1999, thanks to a tee that has been moved back 40 yards so that it now plays 450 yards. Just look down a chute of towering pines and search for five white specks (bunkers) to find the green.
Finsterwald will be glad to know that No. 11 is now 505 yards, with a tee pushed even farther back into the woods. Again, it's not strictly about length. The club has added 17 additional pines down the right side, bringing the small forest to 43 trees and making the right side -- a bailout area when the pin was back left -- no longer a safe alternative.
The other two changes simply put an extra club in the players' hands, if that.
The par-5 15th is back about 30 yards and over to the left, so anyone hitting a power draw can still get plenty of roll and reach the green.
``This is a three-shot hole to most players ... but also a magnificent two-shot hole, as a skillful and courageous player will ... be able to pull his second shot around to the green,'' MacKenzie wrote in 1934.
Tiger Woods showed neither courage nor skill -- only raw power -- when he hit wedge into the 15th this year.
The other change is the 17th hole, mainly cosmetic. The tee has been moved back 15 yards, and the Georgia pines down the left side have been pruned to make the Eisenhower Tree more prominent. The base of the 65-foot loblolly pine is about 210 yards from the tee.
What does it all mean?
Augusta National, steeped in tradition, remains a contemporary course.
If the Masters had left everything the way it was, there would be no pond fronting the 16th green; the 10th green would be at the base of the hill, not above it; the 14th hole would have a bunker and the seventh hole would have none. And don't forget, the nines were reversed for the second tournament in 1935.
Augusta National is longer and harder than ever.
Players hit the ball longer and better than ever.
``Their ability is so marvelous,'' Finsterwald said. ``It's not that they're so much longer, they're straighter. And there are more good putters than there were. So I don't think the test has changed. But players have risen to the changes. But the scores stay pretty much in the ballpark, don't they?''
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.
Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.
"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."
Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.
"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.
"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.
Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”
The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.
“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18