Masters 2017: Hole-by-hole guide to Augusta course

The first golf major of the year begins on Thursday, with the famous green jacket that goes to the Masters winner up for grabs.

There have been a few changes to the course at the Augusta National for this year's tournament, which has been par for the course for successive editions of the tournament.

Here's a hole-by-hole guide to the Augusta National course for the 2017 Masters.

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COMMENT: Lexi deserves penalty, but ban armchair anoraks

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Lexi Thompson cries during the final round of the ANA Inspiration

What happened to Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration was incredibly cruel and unfortunate.

And yet, what cannot be denied is that she was in breach of a rule of golf, and she rightfully got penalized for that.

Everything else is subject to people’s opinion.

These are the hard facts – during the third round of the tournament, which is the first major of the LPGA season, the American marked her ball on the 17th green, and while replacing it, she did not put it at the right spot. Lexi was about an inch away from where she should have been.

On the next day, while she was on the ninth hole and cruising towards a victory, a TV viewer sent an e-mail to LPGA rules officials. After checking the veracity of his claim, the officials informed Lexi on the 12th hole that she was being penalized four shots – two for marking her ball incorrectly and breaking Rule 20-7c, and two for submitting an incorrect scorecard under Rule 6-6d.

Leading by three shots at that late stage of the tournament, Lexi then had to produce some incredible golf to play the last six holes in two-under par and make it to the play-off, which she eventually lost.

So, here are some of the questions that are being asked on what is now being termed LexiGate…

Should there be more common sense applied in the matter of rules?

Golf is trying to move in that direction with the proposed new rules that will come into effect in 2019. At least, Lexi was fortunate she wasn’t disqualified for signing a wrong card, something that used to happen in the very near past.

Remember the Padraig Harrington incident in Abu Dhabi? The Irishman was disqualified the next day after shooting a 65, because his ball moved ever so slightly while marking and he failed to replace it in its original spot. He should have signed for a 67, but submitting a wrong card led to his disqualification.

However, applying common sense to rules is subjective and it is very difficult to establish intent to cheat, or not.

Should viewers be allowed to call in and report infringements?

Golf is a unique sport in this respect. No other sport takes congnizance of facts brought to light by armchair anoraks. Just imagine how many football results would have to change if this was allowed.

As it is, the sport is blessed to have a system that is mostly self-governed, and then there are playing partners, or for that matter any other player or caddie in the field, who can question another player’s action and get officials involved.

Most importantly, golf is a game of honour, and it is rare to find intentional cheaters on the Tours. If they do, they are very quickly found out by their competitors and are marked for rest of their careers.

Really, TV viewers should have no role to play in officiating what is a self-policed sport.

Should players be penalized retrospectively during a tournament?

Why not? Breach of rule is a breach of rule.

Was the quantum of penalty heaped on Lexi too harsh?

It was, if we go by common sense. It wasn’t, if we go by the rules. How was she supposed to know on Saturday that there was a breach of rule and she should have signed for a 69 and not a 67.

Was the Lexi incident detrimental to golf?

Definitely yes. Only because she is an extremely popular player on the LPGA Tour, and American fans would have loved to see a home winner, which was denied. Most fans do not understand the intricacies of the rules, and when something like this happens, they get cheesed off.

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Trip down memory Lane at the Sharjah Senior Golf Masters

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After being part of the first wave of professional golfers to tee it up in the United Arab Emirates in the late 1980s, former Ryder Cup player Barry Lane is excited to return to the Middle East at the Sharjah Senior Golf Masters presented by Shurooq.

The 56-year-old was the only player to participate in the first 25 editions of the Dubai Desert Classic, from 1989 to 2014, and has fond memories of the UAE. Ahead of the first event of the 2017 European Senior Tour season, Lane is one of 57 golfers preparing for the first tournament to be held in the Emirate of Sharjah this week.

“There have been some massive changes in this country since I first played here in 1989,” said Lane, who is making his first appearance at Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club. “I have played well in the Emirates over the years, I finished third in Dubai twice and sixth four times.”

“I like coming here, and at this time of year the weather is perfect. It’s a shock to the system coming to 30 degrees, I live in Gothenburg in Sweden and it has been minus 15 over there.”

Lane is the most recent winner on the Senior Tour after his success at the 2016 season-ending MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius, where he collected his fifth over-50s title, adding to the five he won on the European Tour.

“I had six second-place finishes and a few thirds since the last time I won on the Senior Tour in 2012,” he said. “I hadn’t realised it had been so many years between wins.”

“I played well from September onwards and carried it through. I feel like I’m playing as well, if not better, than I was in Mauritius. I went over to America at the start of the year and practised and played a lot.”

“The game seems to still be there and I’m really looking forward to this season.”

The 57-man field in Sharjah will make history this week at the first European Tour-sanctioned event to be played on a nine-hole golf course.

“It’s a lovely course,” said Lane. “It’s a proper nine-hole course, and it will make a tough 18-hole course. I’m not quite sure what the final score will be to be honest. It’s difficult to get close to the flags and some of the greens are tricky to read, it has been set up really nicely for a tournament. We play from different tees on the par threes and par fives, which I think is very sensible.”

“I think the hardest challenge will be forgetting what you had done the first time you played the hole and refocusing. It will be different for us, but anything different is good.”

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