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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Beauty and the beast at Masters
Changes to the course make it play not nearly as nice as it looks.
By BOB HARIG
Published April 5, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga. - The hallowed ground is known worldwide, the most private of golf clubs opening its gates to the masses for one week a year to be poked, prodded and praised.
The 71st Masters begins today at Augusta National, where it has been played since its inception in 1934. It is the only major championship contested at the same venue each year.
That doesn't mean it is the same place.
The course has undergone more makeovers than Michael Jackson. The nines have been reversed, trees added, tees moved, bunkers deepened, putting surfaces altered. In just 10 years, since Tiger Woods' first Masters win in 1997, the course has been stretched some 500 yards.
And there are subtle nuances that don't get much attention, that may or may not affect the outcome but are still an interesting part of the course's character.
The daunting first hole
There is no easing into the Masters, especially with some 50 yards added in the past five years. The hole is hard enough given the nervousness associated with the first tee shot at one of the world's most storied venues. But there is a gaping bunker that waits down the right side, an uphill tee shot, then a treacherous green. Last year the hole ranked as the fourth toughest and yielded only 29 birdies.
The Delta ticket office
Few realize there is a small creek that runs to the left of the par-5 second hole - probably because it is difficult to see and seemingly out of play, some 75 yards from the middle of the fairway. But if a player hits his drive too far left, nothing stops the ball from bounding into the water. That's why players jokingly refer to it as the ticket office. If their ball finds the water on what is an otherwise easy hole, they might as well make plans to leave town.
Buried in the bunker
Not the ball, but the player, who barely can be seen trying to hit out of the cavernous bunkers at the fifth hole. They are to the left of the fairway, positioned perfectly to catch errant tee shots on the 455-yard, par-4 hole. A 315-yard drive is required to carry the bunkers, and it is risky. Getting to the green from those bunkers requires a good amount of luck and skill.
Beneath each green is a series of pipes to help control temperatures for growing purposes. They also serve as a moisture-removing system. The latter is more important during the tournament because the system is designed to suck water out of the greens, allowing them to be in playing condition quickly. It also means the greens can maintain their firmness and speed. So a deluge, as we've seen at Augusta in recent years, might mean the course plays longer. But the greens will hardly be softer and slower.
The ninth green
Any Augusta National caddie worth his yardage book makes sure to warn all guests about this brutal green. It slopes so much from back to front that it makes keeping the ball below the hole imperative. The problem? Trying to be too fine can result in a short shot hitting a steep bank in front of the green and running all the way down the hill. Ask Greg Norman, above, whose approach spun back off the green and down that hill in 1996, leading to a bogey that helped fuel his demise against Nick Faldo. When the pin is up front, players have to pick their poison: hit it long and risk a brutal downhill putt; hit it short and risk the ball rolling back off the green.
The Eisenhower tree
Okay, this loblolly pine located to the left-center of the 17th fairway is not nearly the obstacle it once was. While it towers 65 feet above the ground, it is just 210 yards off the tee. But the tree is worth mentioning for its place in history. It was named after President Eisenhower, a member of the club. He hit into it so often that at a club meeting in 1956, he proposed having the then- 100-year-old tree cut down. The club's chairman, Clifford Roberts, told the then-president of the United States that he was out of order and adjourned the meeting.