Chris DiMarco probably would have won the Masters last year if Tiger Woods hadn't played, because they were in a playoff and nobody else was closer than seven shots to them.
DiMarco lost to Woods on the first playoff hole, but he isn't sure he'll ever get that close again because of the lengthening of Augusta National, overseen by Chairman Hootie Johnson. When Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer said recently that the changes had affected the Masters adversely, DiMarco wholeheartedly agreed.
"I like the comments that he and Mr. Palmer said about Augusta," DiMarco said. "[Nicklaus] certainly has the right to have an opinion on what he has done to that course."
That "he" is Johnson and he's already the talk of the town.
Jose Maria Olazabal won the Masters in 1994 and 1999 when it was more than 500 yards shorter.
"We have seen the direction they have taken and time will tell if they are right or wrong," Olazabal said.
"It's not a matter of how I want it .... With all the lengthening and everything, some of the pin positions we played through the years, they are not going to be accessible, maybe except for, I don't know, 10 players.
"I don't think by making the golf course longer you are improving the whole situation when you say you are trying to protect the golf course from the long hitters. I think the long hitters, they have the hugest smile, from ear to ear, to be honest."
Last year at the Masters, DiMarco needed only 110 putts, tied with Kirk Triplett for the fewest of any player, and had no three-putts. He doesn't sound confident about a repeat performance.
"It used to set up really good for me until they keep adding hundreds and hundreds of yards to it," he said. "Some of the holes out there are ridiculous, and it seems like they are just wanting one type of player there. It tends to be a bomber's course now."
Phil Mickelson, who won the Masters in 2004, says he's not so sure about that.
"I know it's playing longer and people are saying it's a great advantage, and it is, but we can't get close enough to the greens now to have a short enough iron to get at some of these pins," he said. "So we're playing for par, just like everybody else."
Mickelson wouldn't criticize either Johnson or the 7,445-yard layout, which he first played in 1991 when Augusta National was 520 yards shorter.
"It's not my golf course."
Steve Elkington withdrew from the Masters because of a groin injury.
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Yardage for Augusta National (par 72, 7,445 yards), where the Masters will be held Thursday-Sunday:
*--* Hole Yards Par Hole Yards Par 1 455 4 10 495 4 2 575 5 11 505 4 3 350 4 12 155 3 4 240 3 13 510 5 5 455 4 14 440 4 6 180 3 15 530 5 7 450 4 16 170 3 8 570 5 17 440 4 9 460 4 18 465 4 OUT 3,735 36 IN 3,710 36