U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)

The Loop

Bestrom: Augusta's Playing Long; Maybe Too Long

April 09, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- We hear it all the time at major championships, perhaps most often at the Masters. Course conditions early in the week barely reflect what players will see Thursday morning and certainly not what they can expect Sunday afternoon. Still, it's worth noting that Augusta National has played long so far this week. Unusally long, according to every player we've asked.

"Too long for my man," caddie Andy Prodger said of K.J. Choi's chances. Choi needed two woods to reach the 465-yard 18th during Tuesday morning's practice round, and he hit more 3-irons into par 4s than he will at any other tournament this year. Even freakishly long Bubba Watson is stunned by Augusta's length this week compared to what he remembers from playing in a college event here six or seven years ago. Tiger Woods hit what appeared to be a solid driver on the par-5 13th Monday and had no choice but to lay up. The same was true Tuesday. (Woods only hit balls on the range and putted on the practice green Wednesday.)

"You used to say that par was 68 for the longer hitters," says Woods. "I remember roaming around here and hitting good drives off the par 5s and good irons to every green; that's no longer the case."

Sunny, warmer weather arrived Wednesday, which should help dry out the fairways for Thursday's first round. After a couple of days with highs in the 80s, a cold front with rain is expected to arrive Friday night and stick around through Saturday. The forecast for Sunday currently includes heavy winds and a high temperature of 56.

--Craig Bestrom