Golf: Augusta promises to be a rough passage

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BERNHARD LANGER, twice a US Masters champion, spent two days at Augusta National before heading for the Match Play Championship. He expected to see the changes to four of the holes, but saw a lot more than he bargained for: "It was about this thick," Langer said of the rough, holding his fingers about an inch apart.

Whether the rough will be there in six weeks, when the Masters is staged at the Georgia course, remains to be seen. Tournament officials are reported to be debating how high it should be, and how much area it should cover.

If there is rough, its impact would be difficult to measure until the second week in April. It could play almost one stroke tougher, while some believe it would only give the generous fairways more definition.

Alterations this year include an extra 25 yards on the par-five second hole and the par-four 17th, along with pine trees planted down the 15th fairway and a rebuilt green on 11.

Augusta officials rarely call it "rough," instead referring to the second cut. Either way, should the "second cut" be even an inch deep, it would be the most drastic change since bentgrass greens were introduced in 1981.