We believe Woods, or someone playing like him, will prove that 1997 was no fluke. Given another year of good weather, Woods's record will be approached and perhaps broken, and the leader board will be loaded with Extremers. The view that Augusta National is being rendered defenseless will gain currency. Dramatic changes in the course will ensue, and the '98 Masters will be remembered as a landmark year in the tournament's history. What might some of those changes be? The club has five choices.
Make the pin positions more difficult. This has always been Augusta's ace in the hole, but the club is running out of options. Players have long felt that the pin placements have bordered on unfair, and were occasionally ridiculous. Last year, for example, the hole on the 2nd green was cut on such a precipitous spot in the first round that Jeff Sluman hit a five-footer that did a power lip out and rolled back behind him for about 50 feet before finally stopping on the front fringe. Such placements would seem to violate one of Jones's tenets: "It is not our intention to rig the golf course so as to make it tricky."
Grow some rough. Rough is antithetical to Jones's philosophy. He loved strategic design that gave players options. The clean lies, even after errant shots, allow for some of the most exciting recoveries in golf. "Because of high rough the recovery shot has been lost in the other majors, and it's one of the most beautiful parts of the game," says Nicklaus.
Nevertheless, the time for longer grass has come. "I'm not talking about lining the fairway with it or even growing it more than an inch or so," says Johnny Miller. "I'd just like to see it on one side of the fairway on some holes, where guys like to bail out. Make it just long enough so that a flyer becomes a possibility."
"With rough," says Mickelson, "Augusta might be the hardest golf course in the world."
Add or move some fairway bunkers. This has been tried before. The installation of new fairway bunkers was the chief response to Nicklaus's 271 in '65, a score that broke the old record by three strokes and was just as shocking as Woods's performance last year. Before the '66 tournament, the club installed a bunker on the right side of the fairway on the 2nd hole, a dogleg left par-5 on which Nicklaus had driven far down the hill with impunity. The double bunker on the left side of the 18th fairway was also added to prevent players from intentionally blasting their drives away from the trees on the right and into a large open area only a short iron from the green.
Of course Daly, Love and Woods can fly the bunker on the 2nd hole, and several others can carry the bunkers on 18. Jay Haas, a short hitter with an excellent record at the Masters, has an idea—move the bunkers farther from the tee. In their current position of 250 to 270 yards out, they actually punish the short hitter. "If they just moved them into the long-hitters' range," says Haas, "they would be able to keep up with the modern game and not have the golf course lose its character."
Redesign some holes. Overall, Augusta National doesn't have the real estate to significantly lengthen any holes, but several could be toughened, especially the 2nd, 15th and 17th.
Some club members would like to see a pond installed in front of the 2nd green to make an attempt to get home in two more dangerous. No one quite knows what to do with the 15th, a par-5 of 500 yards that statistically has been the easiest hole on the course since 1942. One idea is to put a shallow bunker on the right side of the fairway to tighten the driving area while still allowing players the option of going for the green.
The par-4 17th also lacks distinction. The fairway is wide-open, and most pros are left with no more than a nine-iron approach. The green has severe undulations, but shorter, and therefore more accurate, second shots neutralize that defense.