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.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam