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Players offer views on potential No. 13 changes

April 8, 2016 - 4:58 pm
Augusta Country Club's ninth hole (bottom) and Augusta National's  12th hole and #13 tee box shown in aerial photo of Augusta National Golf Club.  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Augusta Country Club's ninth hole (bottom) and Augusta National's 12th hole and #13 tee box shown in aerial photo of Augusta National Golf Club.
No. 13 Azalea
Par 5
510 yards
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By David Lee |

The 13th hole has long been considered a birdie opportunity or better with good first two shots, none more so than last year.

Because of the trend in longer drives and shorter approach shots, No. 13 has become a prime target for aggressive play and scoring chances, and the decision to go for the green in two has gotten easier over the years.

That trend showed more in 2015 than ever before in Masters Tournament history.

The field set a record-low scoring average of 4.546 as the hole ranked easiest on the course. It ranks second easiest all-time, but last year’s blitzing marked a new chapter for the hole.

Graphic: Options for altering No. 13

With the scoring trend in mind, Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Billy Payne said No. 13 is one of several holes being studied.

He specifically mentioned the value of the second shot and how plans can be made for the future if that shot on any hole is “impacted by how far the ball is now traveling.”

Despite being a par-5, the hole’s second shot is often a mid-iron into the green, taking away the risk-reward aspect. A prime example is Bubba Watson’s 140-yard approach in the final round in 2014 after clearing the trees on his drive.

Augusta National moved the tees back 20-25 yards in 2002 to reach 510 yards on the card. A potential change could affect the distance by pushing the tee box back further, but Phil Mickelson said it wouldn’t make a big difference.

Graphic: A roadmap for expansion

“If it’s a longer hole, I’m just going to hit less of a slice,” the lefty said. “I’m just going to hit it a little bit straighter. Right now, I have to take something off the driver or else it goes through the fairway.”

Players who average 280-300 yards off the tee like Mickelson would likely approach a longer 13th hole in similar fashion. Mickelson said the same would apply for the second shot.

“It won’t affect my second shot, because I’ll be arguably in the same spot either way,” he said.

A common thought among older players, including Ben Crenshaw, is the need to “retain the charm of the hole.” Jack Nicklaus concluded, among the numerous options, that the best way from a traditionalist standpoint would be to simply lengthen the hole.

Past Masters champion Zach Johnson said he was indifferent on a potential change and left it to Augusta National’s expert touch.

“Whatever has happened here, a change or a push or a massage, I feel it’s always in the best interests of everybody, so it will be great,” he said.

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