The 2023 Masters will take place at Augusta National Golf Club, just as the major tournament always does. That doesn't mean the course is going to be exactly the same. One significant change was made to the Augusta course for this year's event. There's a debate regarding how much it will affect the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and other top golfers who will be competing at the Masters.
The Masters' course change comes at the 13th hole, also known as “Azalea.” The iconic par 5 is 35 yards longer than it was previously. Whereas 510 yards separated the tee from the 13th hole at the 2022 Masters, there are 545 yards from the tee and the hole at Augusta in 2023.
It's the fifth time since 1967 that the 13th hole at the Masters has been part of a course change. What will the latest alteration do in terms of final scores and the approach that golfers take?
A few golfers seem to believe that the length makes things easier. The added distance means that players can now just hit a straight driver instead of drawing it around the dogleg on the left.
“I think they made the tee shot easier because you don't really have to do anything with the tee shot anymore. Just hit it sort of straight up the chute. The second shot, much more difficult,” Rory McIlroy said, via the Golf Channel. “I used to hit 8-iron from a flat lie into 13, and now, I hit a 5-iron from the ball way above my feet. Just makes you think a little bit more about the second shot, which I think is good.”
If anyone in the 2023 Masters field knows about changes to the course at Augusta, it's Tiger Woods. After Woods won three Masters championships from 1997-2002, there were several key changes made to the course. The adjustments became known as “Tiger-proofing,” particularly those that made the course longer.
Woods won two more green jackets after 2002, finishing atop the Masters leaderboard in both 2005 and 2019. The legendary golfer doesn't seem to think that the latest change will make much of a difference.
“They were so dramatic on some of the holes [in 2002], the dramatic lengthening that we were all kind of astounded by just how far this golf course was now playing,” Woods said of the changes, via Golf Digest. “But then as years passed, it became a moot point. Guys with more athleticism, technology, and the average number of carry has gone up dramatically. So, from 2002 to present day, those changes, it seemed like a moot point.”
Throughout his Masters career, Woods has used the 13th hole to improve his overall score. The 15-time major winner has shot 58 under par on Azalea in 94 rounds. Other golfers, however, might be more affected by the change.
When Woods won the 2019 Masters to complete one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history, 26 golfers had a better score on par 5s than the green-jacket winner.
“Some people say more (exciting), some people say less,” Jordan Spieth said, regarding how the change will affect play on the 13th hole. “I think if you are stuck in-between, you get more mayhem because you’re going to get more water balls than guys hitting 7-iron to the middle of the green. How is that not more exciting? … You want to see someone hit it from further away, or a harder shot.”
Plenty of questions about the 13th hole will be answered Thursday when the first round of the Masters gets underway.