Modified equipment a 'last resort' to counter big-hitters at Augusta

Chairman Billy Payne has described the possibility of introducing modified equipment solely for the Masters as a "last resort" after confirming changes are being considered to a number of holes at Augusta National.

The fourth, fifth and 13th could be altered after changes to the outskirts of the property and a potential purchase of land from the adjacent Augusta Country Club.

Six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus reiterated on Tuesday that "the simplest solution is (to) change the frigging golf ball" to reduce how far it travels, but Payne would be reluctant to go down that route.

"As we've stated many times going back many years, we retain all options," Payne told his annual pre-tournament press conference. "At the same time, it's not something we would want to do.

"And as it relates specifically to 13, which seems to be the subject du jour, we think there are multiple options where we could increase the difficulty of the hole and restore the shot values, only one of which deals with extending the length.

"So we are in the middle of all of those studies, a lot of arithmetic, a lot of design issues, and we would only resort to equipment as the last resort because we believe that the governing bodies in golf deal with that very effectively."

Another issue for golf's governing bodies is the crowded schedule in Olympic years, with the US Open, Open Championship and US PGA Championship squeezed into a seven-week period in 2016.

That has led to suggestions that the US PGA could move to February in 2020, meaning the Masters would lose its distinction as the first major of the year.

Payne said he had not considered such a possibility before adding: "It won't affect our ticket sales, I'll tell you that."

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