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What's new for 2019 at the Masters

Tiger Woods acknowledges spectators during a practice round at Augusta National. - Reuters

Let there be coverage. And there was coverage.

One of the only knocks against the Masters tournament from golf fans has always been, quite simply, that there isn’t enough of it.

Until the final round in 2002, the front nine was not televised. Even in recent years, fans at home have been frustrated that the viewing experience was limited compared to other majors.

But when the all-powerful at Augusta National decide to act, it’s often swift and usually monumental.

“For the first time ever in golf we will capture virtually every shot of every player during every competitive round,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said Wednesday. “This extensive library of content will be available on our website and apps through the leaderboard and track features.”

Beginning Thursday, it will be possible for Canadian golf fans to watch every one of Corey Conners’ shots from the first tee to the 18th green at the Masters. Ridley said the footage will be available within minutes of every shot.

It often seems like Augusta National undertakes these grand improvements simply because it can, but it’s deeper than that. Augusta National founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts established a mandate of constant improvement. It’s a philosophy not taken lightly by the members. The modern game is no threat to the green jackets of Augusta National.

The biggest change this year is the par-4 fifth hole, where the tee has been moved back, the fairway re-graded, and fairway bunkers moved. The green has been rebuilt and is slightly larger, providing new hole locations.

Viewers might have a hard time seeing the difference though.

“Every time they make a change, it seems like it’s been here for a hundred years,” Tiger Woods said.

Dustin Johnson was a little surprised the hole was changed.

“I thought it was a hard hole before, they just made it a little bit tougher,” the world No. 2 said.

The added 40 yards will stretch the fifth hole to 490 yards, and, according to Ridley, protect the shot values Jones and course architect Alister MacKenzie originally created, meaning, in part, a longer iron into the green.

“I played it last Wednesday and Thursday,” Johnson said. “And the pin was back both days, and I hit 4‑iron (into the green) both times.”

The most famous hole on the course is the 510-yard par-5 13th at the end of Amen Corner, but there has long been a debate whether it’s still the hole it once was in today’s power game. After all, Bubba Watson once hit a second-shot sand wedge onto the green, to set up an eagle chance. The debate intensified two years ago when news broke that the club had bought more land behind the tee.

Ridley explained Wednesday that they prefer to wait until the sport’s governing bodies decide – what, if anything – they are going to do to combat golf’s distance problem before making any decisions regarding that particular hole.

“Amen Corner is a sacred place in the world of golf,” Ridley said. “I am hesitant to move too quickly in that regard.”

Ridley also all but ruled out Augusta National switching to a special distance-limiting golf ball any time soon.

“It’s very unlikely that we would ever produce a Masters ball,” he said. “There are a whole lot of reasons for that, but I think you can be pretty assured that that’s the case.”

JOHNSON JUST DOESN’T UNDERSTAND

It’s hard to imagine two golfers more different than Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson, which should make for an interesting pairing Thursday and Friday at the Masters.

It’s the science whiz versus the guy most likely to shove him into a locker in high school.

Johnson was asked about all the calculations that DeChambeau makes on the course before every shot.

“It works for him,” Johnson said. “I don’t even try to understand all of them.”

Johnson has finished in the top 10 his past three Masters appearances. He missed the tournament in 2017 after injuring his back falling down the stairs of his Augusta rental house on the eve of the event. Unlike DeChambeau, Johnson isn’t concerned with air density and roll out percentages before he hits.

“I get the number to the front, a number to the flag, and how far I want to hit my shot, and then if I need to adjust for any wind,” he said. “I don’t need a calculator.”

Asked what it’s like to watch firsthand as DeChambeau plays his mad scientist, beautiful mind style of golf?

“It takes a long time,” Johnson said.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019


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