The first major golf tournament of the year, The Masters, is under way in the southern U.S. state of Georgia. But, golfers will be playing a reconfigured course at the Augusta National Golf Club.

The Masters is being played after an extensive course makeover. It has undergone changes in length and new tee placements, additional trees, larger bunkers, and several regraded fairways. It took three months to construct the changes that were completed last September.

Golf Digest Associate Editor Mike Stachura explains why they were done.

"What they have tried to do is make the challenge the same today as it was for the great players of the past," he said. "And to do that with the advances both in player strength and skill, and more importantly, the technology of the golf clubs and the golf ball, you have to make the course longer. You have to make the par-fours longer, and that is what they have done."

The Masters organizers also lengthened a couple of the par-five holes as well. About 250 meters were added to nine holes. Stachura says lengthening The Masters course will limit the number of players who can contend for the champion's famous green jacket. It should also bring the driver back into play on more tee shots.

"They are going to have to execute that same level of precision with a much more difficult club to hit, namely the driver," he said. "So I think shotmaking will definitely be emphasized. But no question, if you ca not hit it far, you are not going to contend at The Masters."

Golf Digest's Mike Stachura says once again, the top favorite at The Masters is defending champion and world number-one Tiger Woods.