Courses go to great lengths in futile pursuit of 'Tiger-proofing'

Hootie Johnson, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters, has announced changes to six holes - one, four, seven, 11, 15 and 17 - for next year's tournament. It sounds like a lottery but they call it "Tiger-proofing".

"Since the first Masters in 1934 this golf course has evolved and that process continues today," Johnson said. "As in the past our objective is to maintain the integrity and shot values of the golf course. Players' scores are not a factor. We will keep the golf course current with the times."

But players' scores are very much a factor. The Royal and Ancient, who had seen Woods triumph here with a record aggregate of 269 five years ago, lengthened the Old Course to 7,279 yards, 164 yards longer than Woods' 2000 win.

The increased length came from five new tees constructed to bring traditional hazards back into play. "We are restoring rather than changing the course," Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, said. "Modern equipment and the greater athleticism of the leading players has led to many of the hazards being taken out of play. The 14th hole is typical. Moving the tee back 37 yards would bring the Beardies bunkers back into play off the tee and emphasise the need to target the fairway between the bunkers and the out-of-bounds wall on the right."

Even so, the Beardies are still as old-fashioned as a moustache. The governing bodies are looking at the problem from the wrong angle. They can make a course as long as they like, but it will not outstrip modern technology. They keep tinkering with the real estate instead of the real issue.

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