Players Speak Out About Changes

By Mercer BaggsApril 3, 2006, 4:00 pm
Players in the field for this year's Masters Tournament had plenty to say about the most recent course changes -- as well as a few other topics in relation to the season's first major championship.
Here are some thoughts on the recent course changes:
Tiger Woods, four-time Masters champion
Its gotten so much more difficult now. With the added length, with those greens being the way they are, it just makes it so hard out there. You're hitting clubs that, granted, they are trying to get you to hit clubs like the older guys used to hit, but the greens were not running at 13 on the Stimpmeter (back then) either. So it just makes that much more difficult now.
It's just different. I think they should get rid of that second cut (of rough) and bring the pine needles and the pine trees back into play. But they see it differently than a lot of us do as players.
Ernie Els, two-time Masters runner-up
No. 4 is big. The one day it was downwind, I hit a 4-iron to the left flag. The second day, the wind was a little into us to a right flag and I hit 2-iron. Both times I made par, thank goodness. But going with a 2-iron into that hole is quite something. It's a bit of a change.
Seven was another big one. I hit driver and a 7-iron both days, a little into the breeze. Going into that green with a middle iron is also quite a big change. I wouldn't want to go in there with 4- or 5-iron like some of the guys might go in there with.
Again, 11, quite a big change with the tee further back. That fairway is really narrow now. It's almost like a U.S. Open hole now. And then 17, I thought also was a big change with the tee further back.
I had 231 yards to the front of the green on 15 on the second there and I hit a good drive. Again, I hit 2-iron and it pitched just perfect on the front edge of the green and it just went to the back edge of the 15th green. We all know that green gets very firm, so that ball would have gone through the green. With a utility club, you can maybe stop the ball, get it up higher. So I'm going to check that out.
Jose Maria Olazabal, two-time champion
In those days, you know, the irons on the green is what was needed. Obviously, you still had to hit the ball pretty good off the tee. If you were in the wrong side of the fairway, you would be hitting maybe two more clubs onto the green. If you were able to hit the half of the fairway that was long towards the green, you could have more run on the ball and the hole would be playing shorter, so that's not the case anymore. They took care of that, too.
You know, it was a different golf course, and it suited my game at that point. In those days, I hit a lot of great iron shots onto the green; the short game was very good. I think that combination was ideal for that golf course, which I don't think you see now anymore. I think you need length, I think you need accuracy off the tee. It's a different golf course.
Now, having said that, with all of the lengthening and everything, some of the pin positions we played all through the years, they are not going to be acceptable, maybe except for, I don't know, 10 players.
Bernhard Langer, two-time Masters champion
Im not sure if its tougher (than 20 years ago); it just gives you less options with the fairways being narrowed. You used to have an option to go left side of the fairway, right side of the fairway to get a better angle into the green. That option is pretty much taken away on most of the fairways because they are so narrow now. Its a different golf course altogether now. Its very different. The original strategy that I think Bobby Jones had when he designed it is not there anymore.
On the chances of an exciting back-nine Sunday finish:

It's going to take a bit of the excitement away, definitely. The time like with myself, when Mickelson won, that kind of golf, I don't think that's going to happen that often anymore because the holes are getting so long. I mean, (No.) 10, you can still get down there, hit an 8-iron into the green. (No.) 11 is so long now, you're going to probably hit 3- , 4-iron in there, so that's not really a birdie-able hole; (No.) 12 obviously is. (No.) 13, you probably can get there. (No.) 14 is longer, you're not going in there with wedge anymore; you're going in with 7-iron. (No.) 15 is debatable if you're there in two. (No.) 16 is what it is, and (No.) 17 is longer; that's not a birdie hole. And (No.) 18 is not a birdie hole. So you're going to do well to break par the back nine.
Jim Furyk
Im not going to criticize one way or the other, but its a totally different style. When youve got shorter irons in your hands, you pick more aggressive sight lines. You would try to do things with a 9-iron, 8-iron, 7-iron in your hands that you can not do with a 6-iron, 5-iron, 4-iron. I think guys will have to play more conservatively. Youre not going to see birdie-birdie-bogey-eagle; youre going to see a lot of par-par-birdie-bogey.
On Tiger Woods chances of winning his fifth green jacket:
Fred Funk
He only has to beat about five guys. He knows it and everybody else knows it.
Tigers going to win more than 10 green jackets in my opinion.
I feel comfortable every time I go there, just because the holes set up well for my eye and Ive had some success there, as well. That always breeds confidence.
On the chances of anyone breaking the course record 63:
Unless you want to play just 16 holes, its not so bad. But if youre going to play all 18, yeah, they are pretty safe.
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