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Devil Ball Golf

The changes at Royal St. George’s won’t make a ton of difference

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Everything about the 2003 British Open seemed strange. Tiger Woods hitting his opening tee shot so far off the fairway that it resulted in a triple-bogey. Thomas Bjorn leaving a relatively easy bunker shot in the sand and costing him a shot at a major championship. And a guy named Ben Curtis, that not even true golf experts had ever heard of, rolling in a clutch par putt on the 72nd hole and eventually being handed the Claret Jug in his first ever appearance in a major championship.

The R&A is trying to do some things to keep the tournament this year at Royal St. George's a little more sane. Officials have widened some fairways, including the first hole (above), and have added just 100 yards to the golf course since the last Open occurred in '03, and although the par has been moved from a 71 to a 70 (the fourth hole will now be a par-4), it seems that the widened fairways will make a few of the holes more playable.

What do professional golfers really make of small changes to championship golf courses? Not a lot. Some will show up to practice rounds after changes just to get a feel for the difference, but a par-5 changing to a par-4 is only going to affect the final score relative to par, not really how players approach the hole.

Augusta National has done a ton of things to toughen the golf course since 1997, yet Charl Schwartzel's finishing score of 14-under was as good as any total at Augusta from 1976 until Tiger Woods tore it apart in '97, so it really just matters on the conditions and the way the pins and such are set up.

So, a different look, but much of the same, and hopefully we won't have search parties looking for golf balls on the first fairway as the groups waiting to tee off gets deeper and deeper.

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