On 17 the double standard is even more pronounced. With the tee moved back, a short hitter can't drive over the huge Eisenhower tree, and the new stand of pines on the right forces him to fit a draw into the driving area. Meanwhile, long hitters can still fly the Eisenhower tree and land in a much more open area. "We'll be hitting wedges in—only pitching wedges instead of sand wedges," says Love. "The shorter guys will be back there with six-and seven-irons."
The effect of the rough is more complicated. The assumption is that long hitters have a more difficult time hitting the fairway and therefore will be the ones most affected. At Augusta, though, the equation is different. Rough or no rough, the National still has the widest fairways of any course the pros play all year. As a result, whereas in all Tour events last year the field hit 69.6% of the fairways, at the Masters the figure was 83.9%. So while it's true that the short hitters will be in the rough less frequently, no one but the wildest player is going to be in it very often at Augusta.
The effect the rough is likely to have has been the subject of considerable debate among players. Tom Lehman says, "All you need to cause havoc on that course is a little greaseball, and they've grown enough grass for that." But others say that when the ball is sitting up, a skilled player can negate the loss of spin by picking it rather than hitting down on it. "I actually think hitting from a little taller grass can be easier than those real tight fairways they have," says Jay Haas, a well-known picker. "Besides, with square grooves there are fewer flyers."
Also, when one of the bombers gets in the rough, his next shot will often be with a short iron. "With a nine-iron or a wedge, the effect of grass that length is minimal," says Woods. "We can open up the face and throw the ball way up in the air, and even without a lot of spin it will land soft and stop pretty fast."
Finally, the rough could help a long hitter by slowing down an errant shot before it runs into the trees and onto the pine straw that constitutes Augusta's most difficult lies.
Everything considered, the new Augusta, much like the old one, seems perfect for a player like Jack Nicklaus when he was in his prime, someone who is a power player, a masterly course manager and a terrific putter. The pro who comes closest to that description today is Duval.
Based on last year's tournament, in which he held a three-shot lead after 15 holes on Sunday, Duval clearly knows his way around Augusta. He is very long and also very straight—Duval ranks among the top 10 on Tour in driving distance and driving accuracy in '99, an almost unheard-of feat. Because he plays a soft-landing fade, his ball will be less likely to roll into the rough than a golfer's of similar length who plays a draw.
Of course, long and straight works anywhere, and maybe that's what this year's changes are all about. Augusta will continue to punish the stray drive less severely than any other major championship venue and remain golf's foremost arena for power and creativity. But now the course will demand a slightly higher level of play from the game's best. There's no better way to identify the most worthy winner.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]