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Posted April 4, 2017, 7:03 pm
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Possible course changes could be topic of Augusta National chairman’s annual news conference

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    Possible course changes could be topic of Augusta National chairman’s annual news conference
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Masters Tournament and Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Paynecould shed some light today on possible changes to the course.

Payne will hold his annual news conference and the topic of adding yardage to some holes, especially No. 5, is certain to come up.

Last year was the first year the club had the option of making the fifth hole longer after it was no longer landlocked by Berckmans Road, which was rerouted. There is now plenty of room to move the tee back on the 455-yard hole if the club chooses. Also, the par-3 fourth green, which is adjacent to the fifth tee, can be moved, as can the tee box on the par-5 second hole.

In his news conference last year, Payne said the club was exploring what to do, if anything.

“It certainly creates options which heretofore did not exist, and, bingo, those are a couple of the holes that we now have under consideration,” he said, referring to Nos. 4 and 5.

Some expected the changes to be done by this year’s Masters, but the holes weren’t touched.

“I think the club, Mr. Payne and the membership here at Augusta National have done a fabulous job with golf setup,” 1998 Masters champion Mark O’Meara said.

The fifth tee could be moved, and not just because of the Masters. It is so close to the fourth green that players on the fifth tee are in danger of being hit from the fourth tee during member play.

Second-year Masters participant Kevin Kisner expects Nos. 4 and 5 to be lengthened.

2016 Graphic

“I’ve never seen anybody change and make a hole shorter so I am prepared for them to be longer and more difficult,” he said. “It seems like no matter how long they make them guys still make birdies. I’m so-so on changes. If they make the hole better, I’m OK with it.”

The fifth hole is a dogleg left. If the tee is moved to the area where Berckmans Road was, it would shift to the right.

“I think it would be a decent change because it would make it a straight shot off the tee,” Kisner said. “Who knows? They do what they do to here; I just play.”

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson sounded in favor of moving back No. 5 because it is preceded by birdie holes on Nos. 2 and 3 and is a fairly hard hole now. It played as the 10th hardest hole last year.

“To move a hole back like No. 5 that is designed to be one the tougher holes out there and sandwiched in the middle of a round in between birdie holes, like 2 and 3, I think that’s a good thing,” Mickelson said. “So you want to make the hard holes harder, but you’ve got to be strategic on what holes those are.”

Six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus would prefer not to see any length added to a 7,435-yard course that already favors the long hitters.

“When the golf course is long, it’s only - it’s not very hard when it’s long, but it just eliminates so many players from having a chance to play it,” Nicklaus said. “I’m never in favor of making the game longer. I’m in favor of trying to figure out how can you make it a challenging test for the entire field and bring the best golfer out, not the best slugger out.”

The par-5 13th was the focus of potential changes a year ago, but to push the tee back Augusta National would have to acquire land from neighboring Augusta Country Club.

Kisner noted that two of his playing partners during Tuesday’s practice round blasted their tee shots over the left trees on the 510-yard 13th, leaving them short irons to the green for their second shot.

“The feeling is guys are hitting it over the trees and hitting 7-iron in like Kevin (Chappell) and Gary (Woodland) did today,” Kisner said. “That’s not how the hole was designed. It was designed to use the bank and play the draw. Now guys are sending it over the trees. I’m sure that’s not how they want it to play.”