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YesYou don’t need to prove you’ve been vaccinated to enter the Masters this year, you don’t need to show a negative test or wear a face covering. “It feels like a normal Masters again,” said Rory McIlroy. And he’s right, around here, it’s almost like the last two years never happened.

Almost. There is a big little difference. There are no more Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwiches in concessions. This is serious business. The sandwiches were the outstanding achievement of Augusta National’s last president, Billy Payne, and all the justification needed to explain his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Payne’s successor, Fred Ridley, was asked about them on Wednesday morning and replied, with appropriate seriousness: “We ran into supply chain issues, like everyone else, in everything we did. “

Ridley talked about a few other changes, insignificant things in comparison, like major course renovations. According to McIlroy, the 11th “is basically a new hole”, and the 15th is also different. The club lengthened both. At 11am they enlarged the pond, removed a group of trees and planted another lower on the right side of the fairway and at 3pm they reshaped the green. They often tinker with the course, but these changes are a bit more drastic than usual, the idea, as always, is to make sure it’s still a course that offers the right balance of risk and reward.

What the club didn’t do was the only change everyone expected from them in the 13th. Club co-founder Bobby Jones loved this hole, which he says offers players a “tempting and dangerous” decision on whether to bend the tee shot around the corner so that they can reach the green in two.

At least, that’s what it’s supposed to do. These days, the 13 feels toothless. Players hit so long off the tee that they end up with a short iron in the green. The club brought in a piece of land behind the tee box at neighboring Augusta Country Club, which everyone assumed meant they were going to be able to lengthen the hole. They haven’t done it yet.

Ridley knows there’s a problem. The club have been talking for years about fixing it and they reiterated it on Wednesday. “The 13th hole doesn’t have the same challenges it had historically.” The reason they’re reluctant to do anything about it, he said, is because it’s such a classic hole. “Probably with 12, and maybe 15, these three holes are where the most history has been made at Augusta National.”

This is where Arnold Palmer eagled with a second pitch after a long argument with a rules official when he won in 1958; where Curtis Strange blew a two-stroke lead on Sunday by hitting him in the creek in 1985; and where Jack Nicklaus landed a crucial birdie in 1986.

“I just remember as a young man watching the Masters, some of the triumphs and tragedies there,” Ridley said. “So that’s probably been a hindrance to doing anything.”

The worry is that they’ll end up like those amateur artists who decide it’s a good idea to try and touch up a fading masterpiece.

Ridley is clearly intimidated by the prospect of tampering with it. And maybe he’s right. The club has always been stuck between old and new, the desire to respect traditions and keep improving as well.

There are times when they are wrong. Ridley’s recent decision to allow media group Dude Perfect to shoot a YouTube movie with Bryson DeChambeau at Amen Corner seemed like a misstep.

Ridley was asked how he imagined Jones would feel if he returned to see Augusta. “I hope he would be proud,” he said. “I hope he feels that we continue to carry the tradition and the values ​​that we thought were so important in the game.”

As long as he wasn’t there the day DeChambeau was throwing frisbees around Amen Corner for a viral video. But Ridley said Dude Perfect “has 57 million subscribers on YouTube and that caught my eye.” The clip ended up being “the #1 YouTube video at the time”.

It’s quite a change for a club that refused to televise the front nine for so many years.

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