AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) _ Having gone through the most extensive changes in its 68-year history, Augusta National Golf Club opens Thursday with a new look and a new member _ six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus.
Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson invited Nicklaus to join the club, making him the second Masters champion to become a regular member.
Arnold Palmer joined two years ago.
Nicklaus told The Augusta Chronicle he was thrilled to join a club ``I have admired and respected since I first stepped foot on its grounds in 1959.″
``When you begin to think of the names that make up Augusta National’s tradition, gentlemen like Bob Jones and Clifford Roberts, this is a golf club steeped in history,″ he said. ``So it is truly an honor to be invited to be part of the club’s future.″
The club closes every year from May to October, although there was plenty of activity this year. Noted architect Tom Fazio led a project in which nine holes were altered and nearly 300 yards added.
Four of the par 4s will be at least 460 yards, and all of the par 5s are at least 500 yards. The only par 4 shorter than 400 yards is the 350-yard third hole, still one of the most challenging on the course because of the contoured, L-shaped green.
The official yardage is 7,270 yards from the championship tees.
But now that Nicklaus is a regular member, he can play any set of tees he wants.