AUGUSTA, Ga. – Sunday at about noon, Jim Furyk looked at the new tournament range at Augusta National for the first time.
“It’s amazing what they can do here in one year,” he said.
Over 18 pristine acres on the site of the old parking lot, the facility looks as if it’s been there for decades. No one makes new look old quite like the Masters.
“It’s the finest practice area I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Ian Poulter, who visited Monday and Tuesday.
There are two fairways cut into the range so players can shape shots left to right and right to left. Target greens adequately represent the response players will get on the golf course as well. And there’s a much better viewing opportunity for patrons with bleacher seating.
Amateur Brad Benjamin gushed, “I could spend the rest of my life on this range.”
Benjamin played the course on Saturday and said the ball is rolling out very well. Ideally, Augusta National is meant to play firm and fast. There’s a 30 percent chance of showers on Thursday but it’s expected to be sunny and warm until then.
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Poulter liked the few subtle changes made to the course. The front of the par 5 second was widened by “a few yards to make it more inviting to land the ball and possibly run it up, and front right at the 15th green has been flattened a bit so they can get a good hole location over there.”
The seventh tee has also been nudged up a bit and Poulter said simply, “that’ll help.”
“The course used to be a lot more fun to play 15 years ago,” said Furyk. “It’s become more of a grind.”
Furyk also acknowledged that the presence of Tiger Woods will add to the challenge. “We’ll have to be patient,” Furyk said. “He can only answer so many questions and the press will naturally look to the rest of us to fill out their stories.”
“I’ll be polite,” said Poulter. “But I don’t have a lot to say on Tiger. I’m here for one reason and that’s to win the green jacket.”
There will be no restrictions on the kind of questions the media can ask at Tiger’s Monday news conference. And according to a Masters spokesperson, there will be no time limit on the press conference.
“I’m looking forward to things returning to normal,” said Furyk. And with the beautiful new tournament range filling up with players and blue skies overhead, for a moment it felt that way.