How Augusta tried to make their easiest hole bite back

Camilo Villegas, of Colombia, lines up his shot from the pine straw on the second hole during the first round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Thursday, April 11, 2024, in Augusta, Ga.
Has Augusta's 'easy' second become any more difficult since changes to its tee box and length? - AP/Ashley Landis

There have been minimal changes to the Augusta layout this year, but one big one is the new tee box location on the par-five second ‘Pink Dogwood’.

For the last three years, Hole 2 has played the easiest of any hole at Augusta, with bombers easily able to make the green in two. Louis Oosthuizen famously hit an albatross at the second in 2012, his 253-yard downhill four-iron shot landing just short of the green, turning almost 90 degrees right and then trickling 60 feet towards the pin. “Oh, come to papa!” said commentator David Feherty, memorably, as the ball dropped into the cup with its last breath.

By moving the tee box back 10 yards, and fractionally to the golfer’s left, the idea was to make the hole even longer – it now measures 585 yards – and perhaps more importantly, point the players straight towards the bunker on the right side of the fairway.

So, has it worked? Is Pink Dogwood biting back? Well, nibbling maybe.

In this year’s first round, it played about a tenth of a stroke tougher than last year’s full tournament average of 4.635. That dropped it from 18 to 16 on Stroke Index, with holes eight and 13 playing fractionally easier. But it still featured one eagle and 29 birdies, with players going around in a combined 23-under-par.

That its stroke average rose even fractionally was in part thanks to Rory McIlroy, who was one of six players to make bogey or worse in the opening round.

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, hits from the pine straw on the second hole during the first round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Thursday, April 11, 2024, in Augusta, Ga
Rory McIlroy did not make light work of the second in his first round - AP/Ashley Landis

Ironically, the Northern Irishman had said beforehand that he did not feel the changes would make much difference at all.

“I thought it was going to be a different visual than it used to be,” McIlroy said following a recent scouting trip to ANGC. “I thought when someone said they moved it back and to the left, I thought the tee box was going to point you out towards that right bunker and you’re going to have to hit more of a draw around the corner.

“I mean, if you didn’t know, you would think you were on the same tee box, it doesn’t look that much different.

“You can still see left of the bunker and I thought it was really going to force you to hit some sort of draw shot around the corner, but you can still hit a straight shot and keep it left of the trap. It’s not as drastic of a change as I thought it was going to be.”

It still got McIlroy, who sent his tee shot way out to the right of the bunker and into the trees. From there he hit a clever top-spin wood out onto the fairway and should really have made par. But McIlroy went straight over the green with his approach and failed to get up and down.

It remains to be seen whether Pink Dogwood does more than nibble over the next few days, but the early signs are that it will continue to offer itself up for birdies. With the wind dropping slightly on Friday compared to Thursday it was averaging around 4.548 strokes with around half of the field still to play, almost exactly what it has for the last three years.