NEW YORK (AP) – Former NBA star Charles Barkley is accusing Augusta National Golf Club of “blatant racism,” saying the reason behind recent changes to the course was to keep Tiger Woods from winning the Masters.

Paul Wong

“Jack Nicklaus won the Masters six damn times, and he was hitting it past everybody else, and they never made a change,” Barkley said in this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated. “What they’re doing to Tiger is blatant racism.”

Augusta National spokesman Glenn Greenspan said the club had no comment.

Recent renovations, which include nearly 300 additional yards, were announced by chairman Hootie Johnson the day before last year’s Masters began. Woods won his second green jacket by two shots over David Duval.

“I spoke to Hootie about the changes, and the changes are not for me,” Woods said. “They’re for the kids that are coming up in the future. I’m not that long, anymore. I kind of dink it around.”

Woods became the first black golfer to win the Masters in 1997. He won by 12 strokes with a 270, breaking by one shot the 72-hole scoring record held by Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd.

Every hole at Augusta has been altered since the course was opened in 1934. Among the more significant changes was adding a large double bunker in the landing area down the left side of the 18th fairway in 1967, the year after Nicklaus won his second straight Masters.

Tees have been moved back on eight holes through the years, and the pond was added to the left of the par-3 16th green in 1947.

Barkley said he brought up the allegations because “Tiger doesn’t like to speak out.”

“We need black athletes to speak out,” said Barkley, who poses bare-chested on the cover of Sports Illustrated appearing to break chains and shackles. “Michael (Jordan) could do it and Tiger could do it, but you have to be willing to be ridiculed. I’m willing to be ridiculed.”

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