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New woos old at Augusta National

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Augusta National Golf Club, once reluctant to embrace the virtual world of gaming, was convinced to join the electronic mainstream by new technology, of all things.

Early Tuesday the storied club and home of the Masters Tournament announced it has teamed with EA Sports in that company’s new PGA Tour 12: Tiger Woods video game. In a conference call EA Sports president Peter Moore said the club’s hierarchy was persuaded to sign on to the game by advancements in the company’s scanning technology.

“I’m not sure we were previously able to do this with our older technology,” Moore said. “(That) was very important to Augusta. It took a while to get there to make sure we were doing our jobs correctly, to be quite frank.”

Prior to the 2008 Masters club chairman Billy Payne seemed to dismiss any chance the club would join the virtual world: “We are not going to be included on other people's video games,” he said before adding. “We are trying to stay ahead of the technology, so I would not be truthful if I didn't tell you that we have looked into that. But we are far from making any decision about it. But if it helps us spread the goodness of this game, then in the future we'll take a hard look at it.”

EA Sports’ new scanning technology and more than 18 months of what Moore called “grunt work” on Augusta National’s fairways, documenting every azalea and hump, provided the adequate amount of authenticity for club leaders.

“People have been begging for this for a number of years,” said Moore, adding that negotiations with Augusta National began about three years ago.

Moore was also asked if the new game – which will feature Augusta National, not Woods, on the cover – was a move to distance the company from the embattled star.

“Not at all. Tiger couldn’t have been more supportive of this,” Moore said. “If it’s the perception that EA Sports is backing away from our relationship with Tiger, which goes back 13 years, that’s not the case at all.”