Thursday, April 10, 2003

Masters Notebook

Players wary of toughened No. 5

Enquirer news services

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Before they even began arriving this week, players already knew that the fifth hole at Augusta National had undergone some severe changes.

The tee had been moved back 20 yards, the fairway was shifted to the right and the bunkers down the left side were deepened and moved closer to the green. What they didn't know until this week, though, was how tough the hole really would be.

"It used to be a nice, easy driving hole for us," Ernie Els said. "And now it's one of the most difficult driving holes."

Judging from the early reviews, the 455-yard par-4 will be all the hole anyone could want. It's not the distance that makes it difficult, though players now will have to hit longer irons into a tricky green. It's the way the bunkers down the left side were extended 80 yards down the fairway and the fairway moved to the right to make the landing area narrow.

Hit it in one of the bunkers and you might as well forget par.

"Hootie (Johnson), I guess, had some kind of connections with the military because he dropped a couple bunker-busting bombs out there," Tiger Woods said.

When players ventured into the bunker during practice, they found out it was plenty deep indeed.

"All you can see is the top of the lip and clouds," Billy Mayfair said. "You won't be able to get it on the green from there."

PROTEST SITE: Martha Burk calls it "that pit" - the 5.1-acre lot pocked with weeds and a few large anthills where she will have to hold her protest to Augusta National's men-only membership policy Saturday.

A three-judge federal appeals court panel ruled against Burk Wednesday. She had hoped it would overturn a U.S. District Court ruling that consigned her protest to the out-of the-way location, instead of outside the gates

Ronald Strength, the sheriff who has approved permits for up to 900 demonstrators, has said the vacant lot is the closest he's comfortable allowing protests without endangering ticket-holders walking and driving to the course.

MICKELSON RESPONDS: Asked this week about a recent issue of Sports Illustrated that features six golf instructors pointing out different flaws in his golf swing, Phil Mickelson said: "I've really stopped worrying about it or thinking about it. ... There are golf swings out on tour that are unique to each player. Ray Floyd is a great champion, but you wouldn't want to try to emulate his backswing. Jack Nicklaus is a wonderful champion as well, but his right elbow at the top of his swing isn't what you would try to emulate."

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