Changes to No 5 Els Former Champs

RSS

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Before they even began arriving this week, players already knew that the fifth hole at Augusta National had undergone some severe changes.
 
The tee had been moved back 20 yards, the fairway was shifted to the right and the bunkers down the left side were deepened and moved closer to the green.
 
What they didn't know until Tuesday, though, was how tough the hole will really be.
 
HeaderIt used to be a nice, easy driving holes for us,' Ernie Els said. 'And now it's one of the most difficult driving holes.'
 
Augusta National - Diagram Hole 05The revamping of the fifth hole is the only major change to a course that was lengthened and toughened considerably last year. Judging from the early reviews, the 455-yard par-4 will be all the hole anyone could want.
 
It's not the distance that makes it difficult, though players will now have to hit longer irons into a tricky green. It's the way the bunkers down the left side were extended 80 yards down the fairway and the fairway moved to the right to make the landing area narrow.
 
Hit it in one of the bunkers, and you might as well forget par.
 
'Hootie (Johnson), I guess, had some kind of connections with the military because he dropped a couple bunker-busting bombs out there,' Tiger Woods said.
 
Players ventured into the bunker during Tuesday's practice round to see how deep it was. They found out it was plenty deep indeed.
 
'All you can see is the top of the lip and clouds,' Billy Mayfair said. 'You won't be able to get it on the green from there.'
 
Phil Mickelson checked it out, but didn't bother to play a ball from the sand.
 
'I'm not planning to go in there,' he said.
 
FORMER CHAMPS:
Augusta National scrapped its policy banning former champions from playing in the Masters after they turn 65. That wasn't enough to lure back Gay Brewer, Billy Casper or Doug Ford.
 
They weren't on the list of tee times released Tuesday.
 
A year ago, Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson sent letters to Brewer, Casper and Ford asking them not to play. They complied with Johnson's request, but Brewer was so angry he refused to attend the annual Champions Dinner.
 
Afterward, Johnson came up with a policy that barred former champions from playing at age 65 beginning in 2004. Many players were angered by the decision, saying the club had reneged on its promise to allow ex-champions to play as long as they like.
 
Johnson reversed his decision after receiving letters from Arnold Palmer and six-time winner Jack Nicklaus. Now, former champions are welcome to tee it up as long as they feel competitive.
 
As a result, Palmer, 73, decided to return for his 49th Masters.
 
'We will count on our champions to know when their playing careers at the Masters have come to an end,' Johnson said.
 
Brewer, Casper and Ford decided against making a comeback.
 
Brewer, 71, had not made the cut since 1983. In 2001, he withdrew after shooting a 91 in the first round. Casper, also 71, actually made it through two rounds in '01 at 23-over 167.
 
The 80-year-old Ford didn't even try to make it around the course at his last Masters. He took a 6 on the first hole and quit.
 
The older players normally teed off together in the first group. This year, Augusta National put 66-year-old Tommy Aaron and 65-year-old Charles Coody in the first threesome with 45-year-old Sandy Lyle.
 
AMATEUR MOTIVATOR:
U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes is having a profound impact on Phil Mickelson.
 
'He's been somewhat of an inspiration for me to get in the gym,' Mickelson said. 'He has an incredible workout regime, and he has the ability to do whatever it takes to play well. I've always thought he's a very motivated player.'
 
Barnes is listed at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, although he looks more like he plays linebacker for the University of Arizona instead of golf. His father, Bruce Barnes, once played for the New England Patriots.
 
Mickelson believes more players built like Barnes are on the way.
 
'I see these guys coming out of college with strength that are ultimately going to be long drive champions who can chip and putt, and who can play,' he said. 'That is the next generation of players. For me to keep pace with that, I have to get stronger.'
 
Mickelson says he has been on a fitness routine for six months, although he declined to elaborate on what he does.
 
'Speed and strength,' he said.
 
IN THIS CORNER:
Ernie Els took two weeks off to heal his right wrist, and he arrived at Augusta National in, well, fighting shape.
 
'It's not an issue at all,' Els said. 'I've had all the scans and stuff done to it, so medically, there's nothing wrong.'
 
Els, who won four of his first five tournaments this year, injured his wrist on a punching bag while working out at home in London. He played the Bay Hill Invitational, but couldn't attack the ball with his irons.
 
He pulled out of The Players Championship, saying he didn't want to risk further injury.
 
'Back in '98, I had an injury in my back and I kept on playing with that injury for two or three months, and my confidence just went,' Els said. 'I really wanted to get it right quickly, and that's what I did. It's 100 percent now.'
 
Els said he still feels a little pain on certain shots, but 'I know I can't damage it.'
 
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
     

    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.