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Sports: Say your prayers! Amen Corner's first hole gets even tougher with trees and mounds added

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – The No. 11 hole at Augusta National has traditionally been one of the longer and tougher holes there is at the Masters.

Daniel Berger looks over his shot from the pine straw on no. 11 during a practice round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. © Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports Daniel Berger looks over his shot from the pine straw on no. 11 during a practice round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

So what did the green jackets do to the first hole of Amen Co? They made it even longer. And tougher.

At 520 yards, the 11th is 15 yards longer than it used to be. The par-4 is also 10 yards longer than the par-5 13th. But that’s not what will create the problems.

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In years past, golfers could hit their tee shots down the right side of the fairway, giving them a clear line either to the green or just in front of it with their second shot. A mound in front of the green could even provide some assistance; hit it in the right spot, and the ball might run up to the putting surface.

Now there are a three large trees on the right side of the fairway. The one mound is now three.

“The tee shots may be slightly easier, but then it leaves you with a longer second shot in, and I think that's where the hole becomes a lot more difficult,” Rory McIlroy said Tuesday. “But the penalty for missing the second shot is greater than it was before. You've got that runoff on the right that, if you get to the middle, like say pin high with the middle of the green, that drop-off on the right side is significantly deeper than it used to be.

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“So, the miss really now is short right, sort of front edge, level with front edge of the green and just a little right, but that brings those mounds into play.”

The left side has its own challenges, with a pond in front of the green extended back, toward the tee, by about 10 yards. So it’s choose your own adventure, Augusta style: Trees and a series of valleys, or water.

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“I was kind of a little skeptical, and then I saw it,” Jordan Spieth said. “It's more so a second-shot hole now, which I think is great for that hole, and they made the miss to the right more severe. Which just in turn makes that second shot just a little bit harder.”

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Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said Wednesday that the club reviews the course every year to make sure it still meets the “integrity of the design philosophies” of Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie. The changes to 11 should improve the strategy of playing the holes, Ridley said.

Justin Thomas wasn’t so sure.

“No. 11’s still hard,” he said. “It was hard before. It’s probably harder (now.)”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Say your prayers! Amen Corner's first hole gets even tougher with trees and mounds added

New Mexico village seeks prayers as deadly wildfire rages .
With towering pine trees and cool mountain breezes, a pocket of southern New Mexico draws thousands of tourists and horse racing fans every summer. It's also a community that knows how devastating wildfire can be. It was a decade ago that fire ripped through part of the village of Ruidoso, putting the vacation spot on the map with the most destructive wildfire in New Mexico's recorded history when more than 240 homes burned and nearly 70 square miles (181 square kilometers) of forest were blackened by a lightning-sparked blaze.

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