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Course Isn't Exactly `Ruined'

April 06, 2006|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jack Nicklaus backed off slightly from his recent comment that a longer Augusta National has been "ruined" for the Masters.

"I said from a tournament standpoint, I didn't think it was a very good thing to do," Nicklaus said Wednesday.

"I think their intention is to do exactly what they did with the last [makeover] ... try to end up having the players play similar clubs to what they were playing, you know, 20 years ago in the same places. Their intentions are correct."

Nicklaus, who played in the par-three contest in the afternoon, also said he understood why no players were asked for input about altering the course.

"That's not my call," he said.

"So should we have been consulted? Not necessarily. Could we have been consulted? I suppose. But I think that the intention here is to do what is right for the game and what is best for Augusta.

"Is that exactly what I would have done? Probably not."


One of the rituals of the Masters is a Wednesday morning news conference with the Augusta National chairman. That has been Hootie Johnson's domain since 1999. The session is typically formal, the answers from the chairman brief, not abrupt, and that trend continued.

Asked about criticisms of the course from such former champions as Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, Johnson stiffened when asked whether the critics were all wrong and he was all right.

Johnson: "We are comfortable with what we are doing with the golf course for the Masters tournament."

Question: So none of these people has a point?

Johnson: "I said we're comfortable. They are entitled to their opinion. I said we are comfortable with what we are doing."


Tiger Woods said he hoped to have a good week so that it might improve the condition of his father, Earl, who is battling cancer at his home in Cypress.

"It's something for him to look forward to and hopefully I'm playing well where it gets him a little fired up that I've got a chance to win the tournament," Woods said.


Dry weather is expected until Saturday, when rain is forecast. For today's first round, the temperature is expected to reach about 80 degrees.


Colin Montgomerie, who missed the cut the last two times he played the Masters, in 2003 and 2004, addressed the difficulty of the par-four 11th that has been stretched 15 yards to 505 yards.

Said Montgomerie: "Generally, holes that start with a five and it says par four are generally the problem."


A 26-year-old man was jailed Wednesday night after allegedly shooting at Tom Lehman's car. Lehman wasn't hurt and will play when the Masters begins today.

Troy Willis Smith of Augusta is being held on two felony counts each of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm in commission of a crime, said Investigator Tom Johnson of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

Lehman, the 1996 British Open champion, was on his way to the Augusta airport late Tuesday night to pick up his son, Johnson said. As he drove west on Bobby Jones Expressway, Lehman told police an older-model, four-door sport utility vehicle sped past the 2006 Cadillac Escalade he was driving and he heard a loud explosion.

Johnson said Smith was arrested after a separate shooting Tuesday night.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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