Augusta National’s iconic ‘Amen Corner’ trio of holes promises to pose even more of a challenge to Tiger Woods and the rest of the field at the 86th Masters.
Woods’ familiarity with Augusta National is believed to be one of his biggest weapons as he seeks to return from career-threatening leg injuries suffered in a February 2021 car crash with a record-equalling sixth Masters title.
The par-four 11th, which has played as the second-most difficult hole in Masters history, is even tougher after changes that Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy said created “basically a new golf hole”.
The change is one of the most drastic of several adjustments this year, which also includes lengthening the par-five 15th from 530 to 550 yards.
The 11th has been lengthened 15 yards. Fifteen trees were removed the right side, along with the pine straw mulch that was beneath them.
The changes make it less inviting to use the right rough and pine straw as a bailout area, and could provide incentive to play tee shots closer to the pond on the left.
The second shot that Woods hit into the green in the final round of his 2019 triumph, a low draw around a tree, would basically no longer be an option.
“What they did on 11 is interesting,” said Woods, who noted that the ‘Larry Mize shot’ – a pitch-in from right of the green to beat Greg Norman in a sudden-death playoff in 1987 – could no longer be repeated.
“Now [that shot] is really gone, with them raising the green up even more on the right-hand side,” Woods said. “And we’re further back, so we’re more prone to hit the ball over there anyways. So, it’s a harder and more difficult pitch.”
Although Augusta National often appears to present an unchanging face, McIlroy noted that officials are, in fact “always making little tweaks and improvements”.
“The reason that I came up here a little bit early last week was just to see the couple of changes,” said McIlroy, who can join the select group of players to complete a career Grand Slam with a Masters win.
“Eleven is basically a new golf hole,” McIlroy said. “Fifteen is a little bit different. Then the three new greens, 3, 13 and 17, all with subtle little tweaks to the slopes there.”
McIlroy said the revamped 11th offers a “slightly less daunting” tee shot.
“You don’t have that collection of trees on the right-hand side,” he said. “It’s a more generous tee shot. But then it leaves you with a longer second shot in. I think that’s where the hole becomes a lot more difficult.”
Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said on Wednesday the changes were made with an eye to emphasising the importance of approach shots into the greens.
“We’re always looking every year how we can improve the golf course,” Ridley said.
© Agence France-Presse