AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A handful of players at the par-3 12th in Tuesday/Wednesday practice rounds experienced a phenomenon not seen since Fred Couple's minor miracle there in the final round of the 1992 Masters: A tee shot landing on the bank short of the green and hanging up in a swath of taller grass rather than tumbling into Rae's Creek. Expanses of taller grass also lurk near the hazard lines in front of the par-5 13th and 15th greens, signaling yet another course-setup change that may lead to better scoring--and more drama--in the first round today.
Couples went on to win in '92 when his ball inexplicably came to a halt short of the water. The taller grass that year reportedly was effected at the urging of the late 1960 PGA champion, Jay Hebert, who disliked the sink-or-swim nature of the tee shot at the 12th.
"It looks like another sign that the Masters is moving away from the anti-low scoring fetish they've had the last few years," says instructor David Leadbetter, who helped Nick Falso to three Masters titles and Trevor Immelman to a victory in 2008. "It's significant. On Sunday, when the flagstick is on the right of the green, we may see more players attack the hole rather than going for the center of the green.
The taller grass near the hazard margins on the par-5 13th and 15th holes surely will be factored when players conftont eh go/no-go decision on their second shots. A second shot landing on the bank once meant a tough par save at best and more likely a bogey, a short pitch from the taller grass now will keep a birdie very much in the equation.
"It means more entertainment and less of a death march," says Leadbetter. "So many of the changes we're seeing this year--the fast firm conditions especially--will bring a lot more players and styles into the mix. I think Bobby
Jones would approve."
-- Guy Yocom