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Posted April 11, 2019 10:04 pm
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After changes, No. 5 tough as usual in Masters first round

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    The fifth tee box at Augusta National Golf Club was moved back 40 yards before the 2019 Masters Tournament. [ANDY NELSON/ FOR THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

New, improved and still an angry bear.

The tee shot on the renovated fifth hole at Augusta National Golf Club played into a steady south wind in the first round of the Masters Tournament and offered the field a hearty challenge.

Augusta National lengthened the hole by 40 yards in the past year and expanded the viewing area, creating room for patrons to stand behind the tee box and watch the players launch for the first time. The bunkers guarding the left side of the fairway were also moved closer to the tee.

With 280 yards to reach the first bunker on the left and 315 yards to carry the second, most of the field opted for driver on the 495-yard par-4. The right side was definitely the safe side. Only three of the 14 players whose drive landed in the second cut on that side made worse than par.

PHOTOS: Round 1 at Augusta National

“I think it’s a great improvement to that hole. It’s long but everyone hits it long, so, you know, they did the right thing,” Adam Scott said. “They’ve at least given us a fairway to look at that distance whereas before it was a very narrow fiddly tee shot.”

The fifth finished the day as the fourth-most difficult hole at Augusta National, playing to a 4.276 stroke average as only 25 percent of the field missed the fairway. No. 5 was the sixth most difficult hole in the 2018 Masters (4.165 stroke average).

Eddie Pepperell, a Masters rookie, said his playing companion Charl Schwartzel used a 3-wood off the tee, which gave him a wide landing area and kept him short of the bunkers.

“It’s not that tough of a tee shot really, I think it’s one of those on paper that is probably tougher than it actually plays,” said Pepperell, who opened with 74. “I think there are some tougher tee shots out there, 18 being the main one that’s tougher. (No. 5) actually surprised me how wide it was.”

Webb Simpson, 179th on the PGA Tour in driving distance this season, also chose a 3-wood to eliminate running out into the bunkers. That produced one of the day’s longer approach shots, 232 yards, but he found the green with a 3-iron and made par.

On the old version of No. 5, a typical driver tee shot left Simpson a 7-iron shot for his second.

“It doesn’t look that different than it used to as far as what you’re seeing when you look up,” Simpson said.

Tiger Woods pulled his tee shot into the left side of the first bunker and made bogey. Shane Lowry crushed the longest drive of the first round on No. 5, ripping a 323-yard missile that split the center. Jose Maria Olazabal, the 1994 champion, hit the shortest, measuring 247 yards but tied Lowry with a par.

Marc Leishman, Rory McIlroy and others hit a slight fade off the left bunker into the fairway.

Tony Finau, one of the Tour’s longer hitters, launched a 298-yard drive into the wind, leaving him a 5-iron from 209 yards for his second.

“I think it’s a good hole. They moved the bunker back so if you hit it in that first left bunker you got to lay up,” Finau said. “If you hit it in the second one you might be able to get there. If you hit it with length you might have an advantage on that specific hole. I like the change but you might not hear that from everybody.”