Golf - US Masters: Augusta adds trees, length - and rough

The famous course has a few new tricks to give the best a sterner test.

WHAT IS the difference between a jinx and a coincidence? The fact that no player has followed a victory in Wednesday's pre-Masters par-three competition at Augusta National by donning a green jacket has reached superstitious proportions. Players have been known to incur the wrath of their partners by ruining the chance of picking up some smart crystal by dunking a tee shot in the water or missing a few putts.

On the other hand, the fact that no one has gone on to win the Masters in the same year as a victory at the Players' Championship is treated as a coincidence. Several balls may have ended up in the pond at Sawgrass's famous 17th hole but no one deliberately aimed to miss the island green. Certainly not David Duval, who, not unreasonably, assumed that winning his biggest tournament to date would only enhance his prospects of earning a first major championship this week at Augusta.

"Any time you win, it helps you the next time, it builds your confidence," said the new world No 1. "Each time there is something different you have done to put in the library for the future."

In Duval's favour is the trend for Augusta to reward those in the sort of form that has brought the 27-year-old 10 wins in the last 18 months. Ian Woosnam, in 1991, and Fred Couples a year later had both just become the world No 1, while Tiger Woods was the hottest new property around in 1997.

But Augusta is also known for its surprises. Last year Mark O'Meara, at 41, became the oldest first-time winner and just the third to lead only after the 72nd hole. Duval was the joint runner-up. "It was my first opportunity in a major and I did everything I could. I shot a 67 in the final round and it took three birdies in the last four holes to keep me out of a play-off. I certainly think I am capable of winning," he said.

While Duval and Woods, who is enjoying being out of the full glare of the spotlight, will start as the favourites at Augusta, talk of a rivalry is premature. That comes only with a duel down the back nine of a major. "It would be kind of neat if that happened," Woods said. "But as for David and me being dominant, there are too many other great players."

Duval said: "I hope it comes to pass. It would be good fun. I appreciate what people are getting at and I'm not going to downplay it, but I don't think you can necessarily overlook other players."

But if the list of potential winners, including Lee Westwood after rediscovering his form at the Players', is as wide open as ever, Augusta National itself is not. For the first time, so-called rough will line what will remain generous fairways. Since this rough will be cut at 13/8in, we are not talking about US Open hay, but with the greens as severe as ever, it will make it harder to stop the ball on the putting surfaces.

"Augusta with rough? On a hard, fast day? Tiger's record of 18 under could last forever," said Ernie Els. So far opinion is divided on whether the rough will raise scores. What O'Meara believes is this: "You are going to have to think about your tee shot a little more."

Four holes have been further altered. The tees at the second and 17th have been pushed back 20 to 30 yards, while the 15th will play longer as the mounds on the right of the fairway which propelled the longer drives forwards have been replaced with a dozen pines. More players may have to lay up at the par-five second but the longest hitters will still make it home in two.

That hole and the par-five 15th may not be affected much, but the 17th will play harder with the drive having to be threaded between Eisenhower's tree on the left and the new ones by the 15th on the right. The other hole to change is the 11th, where flood control has meant Rae's Creek at the back of the green has been widened and the green lifted by two feet.

Not everyone is happy with the biggest changes at Augusta since the grass was changed on the greens. Greg Norman complained he would not be playing the same course as all the past great champions, but Jack Nicklaus pointed out that since he shot a then record 64 in 1965, "the course was not the same as it is now". In all, there have been 69 changes to the layout in the 66-year existence of the club.

The changes are a reaction to Woods' 270 total two years ago. "Part of our reasoning is that these young men are hitting the ball a lot longer," said William "Hootie" Johnson, the new chairman.

But it is not as if all recent Masters champions are monster hitters. Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ben Crenshaw and O'Meara are not. Yet the changes seem to help the longer men. "The more difficult, the longer, the deeper the rough, whatever they change, gives an advantage to the long hitter," said Davis Love. Bring on Duval versus Woods.

football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss