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AP photo by Matt Slocum / Bryson DeChambeau hits from the fairway on the 11th hole at Augusta National Golf Club on Tuesday during a practice round for the Masters, which begins Thursday.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Not even 24 hours had passed after Hideki Matsuyama slipped on the green jacket last April at Augusta National Golf Club, and the preparations for this year's Masters were underway.

It started with heavy equipment being brought onto the course to remove a massive tree from its former home near the 15th tee.

While some traditions at Augusta National are hardly ever altered and some rules are downright absolute, the course itself has a long history of evolving with the times. And the process of changing some things for this year's Masters, which begins Thursday, started immediately after last year's event ended. The primary changes: making the par-4 11th and par-5 15th each 15 to 20 yards longer and lowering the tee boxes on both holes.

"I think this place changes a little bit every year," said Scottie Scheffler, whose recent run of PGA Tour success has him at No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking and among the favorites at the first men's major championship tournament of the year.

Scheffler's assessment of Augusta National isn't wrong.

Golf balls simply fly farther now than they did years ago because of technology. Golfers are bigger and stronger. These are not new developments, of course. Courses had to adjust with all of that, and most have; this one was no exception.

Augusta National leadership make no secret of looking at possible changes every year, and they usually at least tweak something to ensure the course remains a tough but fair test of golf.

"That's what this place is all about. It's as much of a chess game as anything else," said four-time major champ Rory McIlroy, who needs a Masters win to complete the career Grand Slam. "It's just about putting yourself in the right positions and being disciplined and being patient and knowing that pars are good."

It's not like the 11th and 15th holes were screaming for change. The 11th was the second-toughest hole in relation to par at last year's Masters, with the average score about 4.4 and birdie being made only about 5.3% of the time.

Now it figures to be even more difficult, with not only added length but changes to the contour of the fairway. Some trees were removed from the right side, though that alone won't make it play any easier.

"We thought the Larry Mize shot is gone," five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods said. "Now it's really gone."

The 11th hole — its proper name is White Dogwood — played at close to 455 yards in 1987, when Mize holed out a chip from well off the right side of the green for a birdie and the Masters title in a playoff over Greg Norman. It plays at 520 yards now.

Mize once said he never tried to replicate that chip. He couldn't now if he wanted to; the right side of the green has been raised, so the shot he played wouldn't be the same under any circumstances.

Woods noted that some of the changes "are more drastic than others. Others are very subtle."

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AP photo by Matt Slocum / Spectators watch beside the 15th green at Augusta National Golf Club on Tuesday during a practice round for the Masters. The 11th and 15th holes have undergone the most notable changes at the course in between last year's tournament and this year's event, which starts Thursday.

The 15th was the fourth-easiest hole on the course last year, with Firethorn's average score 4.77, but it was the toughest of the four par-5 holes. It's the hole where Gene Sarazen hit a 4-wood from 235 yards for a double eagle in 1935.

The tee got pushed back about 20 yards this year and, earlier this week, Lee Westwood was hitting his approach from 267. A hole that Masters officials tout as "famously reachable" isn't so reachable anymore.

"It certainly makes you think now," Westwood said. "Even if you hit a good drive, it's not an immediate, 'Yes, I'm going to go for it.' It's really a juggling act and an evaluation of whether it's easier to hit a 100-yard pitch shot into a green that's sloping slightly against you than it is a 20-yard through the back with it running away from you towards the water. It certainly makes you think."

While the changes to 11 and 15 will get most of the attention, the greens on three other holes — the par-4 No. 3, the par-5 No. 13 and the par-4 No. 17 — also were redone in the last year, which isn't uncommon.

Fred Ridley, the club's chairman, said one byproduct of that was the potential for perhaps a new pin placement than the usual spots on those greens. Put simply, even golfers who know — or knew — every nuance of Augusta National have had to relearn some things on the fly this week.

"That's really what we were trying to incorporate," Ridley said. "The risk-reward element into some of these changes we made."

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