AUGUSTA, Ga. — Amen Corner is likely getting a facelift sometime soon, but Masters chairman Billy Payne on Wednesday stopped short of saying that Augusta National Golf Club is committed to adding more length to the iconic 13th hole.
Reports emerged earlier this year that the club is considering lengthening the 510-yard par-5 by about 50 yards to protect what played as the easiest hole in the 2015 Masters at 0.45 strokes under par (4.55).
Such a project would likely require purchasing land from adjacent Augusta Country Club and paying to replace that club’s ninth hole. The entire project reportedly could cost up to $30 million.
Augusta National bought land to lengthen the 13th in 2002 from 480 yards to its current 510, but Payne said that is only one option.
It was aces high Wednesday at the Masters’ Par-3 contest, with a record nine holes-in-one being recorded on Augusta National’s par-3 course.
In a span of about 15 minutes, 80-year-old Gary Player became the oldest man ever at Augusta National to make a hole-in-one, recording one on the 115-yard seventh hole. A few moments later, Zach Johnson made one in the next group.
“I thought that was going to be the moment I was going to remember,” said former LSU golfer Smylie Kaufman, who was playing with Johnson.
Then Kaufman went to the 120-yard eighth, a downhill hole over a huge pond. Kaufman launched a 52-degree gap wedge shot that landed about 10 feet past the hole and watched it spin back in for his ace.
“I knew if it kept coming, it was going to go in,” said Kaufman, who had his mother Pam, a former LSU golfer herself, as his caddie.
Jimmy Walker aced the 70-yard second hole en route to winning the Par-3 contest with a record 8-under-par 19. Walker will now try to become the first player since the Par-3 contest began in 1960 to win it and the Masters in the same year.
Adam Scott asked Stevie Williams to come out of semi-retirement and caddie for him this week. Williams carried Scott’s bag when he won the 2013 Masters and was the caddie for Tiger Woods’ last three victories here in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
“Well, it’s invaluable, isn’t it?” Scott said of Williams’ experience at Augusta. “I don’t know if any caddie has won as much as he has around here.
“I’m looking for that same kind of magic out of him this week.”
Watching the weather
Rain was expected Wednesday night into early Thursday morning that could drop about a quarter-inch of precipitation on the area. After that, it’s expected to be clear but windy Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with gusts 25-30 mph each day.
Reed’s backup plan
Patrick Reed was victim of one of the oddest occurrences in the final round of last year’s Masters when he caved in the face of his 3-wood. Not having a spare, which he was allowed to go to by rule, he used his driver off the tee where he would have hit the 3-wood.
Now, Reed said, he travels with a backup set of clubs.
“You’ve got to make sure you’ve got a backup set with you at all times just in case something fluky like that happens,” he told The Augusta Chronicle, “or you’re up against a tree and you bend something.”
Making his third Masters start, the former Augusta State All-American still shot a 70 in last year’s final round, tying his best score here so far.
Reed, 25, hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since the Tournament of Champions in January 2015. But he has maintained his No. 10 world ranking thanks to a string of consistent finishes. Reed five top-10s this year, including three straight coming into Augusta.
Ceremonial tee shot
The Masters gets underway Thursday morning with ceremonial tee shots from Player, a three-time winner, and six-time champion Jack Nicklaus (76).
Four-time Masters winner Arnold Palmer is expected to be on the first tee Thursday but announced last week that he would not hit a tee shot with Nicklaus and Player, citing a lingering shoulder injury. Palmer, now 86, hit the ceremonial shot from 2007-15.
The ceremony is not televised live.
The last word
“I’m shooting for the middle of June. Unfortunately, we’re closed then. We may, however, open it up for one day.”
— Billy Payne on when he hopes to resume playing golf after November back surgery