Course tweaked to allow two new pin positions

Posted: April 06, 2005

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Other than very subtle changes to the greens at the par-3 fourth and par-5 15th holes to enable new pin positions, Augusta National remains unchanged from last year.

"The right front of 15 was softened a fraction - not much, a fraction - to hold a front right pin," defending champion Phil Mickelson noted recently after a return visit. "And No. 4 was softened a little bit by the hole on the back right pin."

Both changes were made to accommodate the lightning-fast speed of the greens favored for Masters week, Mickelson said, adding, "I think we saw as the speeds have gotten up over the years, we saw the front right pin at 15 kind of disintegrate, and now it's a viable spot."

The last time significant changes were made to Augusta National was in 2002, when several fairway bunkers were moved and the tees were moved back on nine holes, stretching the course to its current 7,270 yards.

Even with so few changes, there is still plenty to learn about the course. Without the early-week rains of the last three years, players say the greens at Augusta are rolling faster than ever, certainly for the practice rounds.

"The greens are as fast and firm as I've ever putted them," said Vijay Singh, the 2000 champion, echoing the comments of many players. "I just hope the rain doesn't come and mess that up."

That could happen. Weather forecasts for tomorrow's first round say there is a 90 percent chance of rain.

Singh's sights. Speaking of Singh, who has never been one to spill his guts to the media, he conceded publicly yesterday that, yes, being No. 1 in the world is a big deal to him.

"I love being No. 1; there's no hiding it," said Singh, who has in fact done a very good job of hiding it.

Truth be told, said Singh, when he overtook Tiger Woods as No. 1 last year, he didn't expect to keep it. But when he quickly won two more tournaments to give him a cushion, his outlook changed.

"You get the idea of, 'Hey, let's see how long I can keep it and see if anyone is going to catch me,' " he said. "The more the weeks went on, the more confident I became."

Pairings. By Masters tradition, Mickelson, the defending champion, will be paired tomorrow and Friday with the U.S. Amateur champion, Ryan Moore; Stuart Appleby will be the third member of their threesome.

As for the rest of the "Big Four," Woods is paired with Darren Clarke and Carlos Franco; Singh is grouped with Lee Westwood and Chad Campbell, and Ernie Els plays with David Toms and Adam Scott.

Oops. After his practice round yesterday, Jesper Parnevik was still living down his boneheaded play of the week - forgetting to bring his golf clubs to the Masters.

"I made history no matter this week, no matter what happens," said Parnevik, laughing at himself.

The Swede, who has four young children, said you'd have to see the chaos around the Parnevik household to understand how they could have flown - by private jet, no less - from their home in Jupiter, Fla., to Augusta without remembering to grab his clubs out of the garage.

TWA, as in Tiger Woods Airlines, to the rescue. Parnevik called Woods, whose wife was Parnevik's nanny, and asked him to toss the clubs in his plane.

"He laughed for a half hour, but he was kind enough to bring them," Parnevik said.

Contact staff writer Joe Logan at 215-854-5604 or jlogan@phillynews.com.

Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/joelogan.

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