Monday, April 6, 2015

A Hole-By-Hole Look at the Best and Worst Shots in Masters History: The Second 9

PREVIOUSLY: The Best and Worst Shots in Masters History: The Front 9

Masters week is finally here.  And to help you get ready for the 79th edition of The Masters, I'm looking back at the best and worst shots in Masters history on each hole at Augusta National.

From shots that directly impacted the outcome of the tournament, to others that were impossibly shocking, miserable, or symbolic in their own right, every hole has a story to tell. 


78 years, over 3,000 different players, and more than one-million shots taken. These are the legendary bests and worsts forever etched in Masters lore. 

No. 10: Camellia - Par 4, 495 yards 

The Best 
Bubba Watson is a self-described new age redneck.  He raps in golf videos, drives the "General Lee," and flies around the golf course in a hovercraft.  So it shouldn't be surprising he dared to even imagine the looney-tunes shot he pulled off on the second playoff hole of the 2012 Masters. 


Watson was deep in the woods on No. 10 after an errant tee shot.  His ball nestled in a bed of straw.  Augusta's pines looked like monsters from Sleepy Hollow.  And he couldn't even see the green. Watson stepped up and just bludgeoned his wedge. 

The ball screamed 40 yards through the trees, snap-hooked right, and soared 115 yards in the air before plummeting softly on the green.  Watson then two-putt for par to become the 76th Masters champion. 

Watson put himself in position to win on the strength of consecutive birdies on holes 13 through 16.  But it was his shot at No. 10 that everyone wanted to talk about afterwards.  Including Bubba. 

"I'm obviously going to say I'm the only one who can do it," Watson said.  "I'm the only one who had a chance to do it."  Call that bravado.  Call is a Bubba-ism. Watson is a Masters champion with a style as bold as his swing. 

The Worst 
Scott Hoch was 24 inches from Masters immortality on the first playoff hole of the 1989 Masters.  24 inches from breakfast in the Masters Champions Locker Room.  24 agonizing inches... that might as well been 24 feet. 


Hoch greased his green-jacket-gimme entirely outside the hole and four feet beyond.  It was the shortest putt missed with a chance to win any major championship in history.  And when Hoch launched his putter 10 feet in the air, he became the Masters poster boy for putter-paralysis. 

It was more painful than childbirth to watch.  And Hoch said after the playoff, "I'm just glad I don't carry a gun with me."  Nick Faldo made his 25-foot birdie putt on the next playoff hole and went home as the 53rd Masters champion. Hoch just went home. 

No. 11: White Dogwood - Par 4, 505 yards 

The Best 
The 51st Masters was a modern-day tale of David and Goliath.  Lary Mize was a relative unknown, a local kid who ran the scoreboard during the 1972 Masters. Greg Norman was golf's most dominant player, No. 1 in the world.  And with one deadly sling of his wedge in a sudden-death playoff, Mize dropped the giant Norman to his knees. 


Initially a three-man playoff, World No. 3 Seve Ballesteros was eliminated on the previous hole.  And on No. 11 Norman reached the green first, leaving Mize a choice between playing it safe or going for the jugular.  The fresh-faced Mize went for the kill. 

Taking aim at the front edge of the green Mize chipped towards a grassy bank. The ball bounced twice before catching the slope.  Then it broke straight for the hole.  And when it finally dropped in the cup, Norman was out on his feet. 

Mize chipped in from 140 feet, delivering one of the most absurdly fantastic shots in Masters history.  The crowd went berserk.  Mize danced in disbelief. And the hometown hero became an Augusta legend in 1987. 

The Worst 

Ben Hogan had a well-documented blueprint for playing White Dogwood in 1954.  Always aim the approach towards the right fringe of the green.  Anything left was too risky with the greenside pond.  But in the final round of the 18th Masters, Hogan deviated from the plan and it cost him a potential third green jacket. 


Hogan heard a tremendous roar from the crowd two groups ahead, and presumed his lead had diminished.  So Hogan uncharacteristically fired at the flag and the result was disastrous.  Rather than recording par or birdie like he did in the first three rounds, Hogan took a double-bogey six when his ball found the pond. 

Hogan lost in an 18-hole playoff with Sam Snead the following afternoon.  And that road from the crowd on Sunday?  It wasn't an eagle roar, or even a birdie roar.  It was a roar of approval for a player who went barefoot into Rae's Creek searching for an errant shot. 

No. 12: Golden Bell - Par 3, 155 yards 

The Best 
Every Masters champion has to successfully navigate “Amen Corner” on Sunday if he’s going to wear the green jacket.  And at the 56th Masters in 1992 Fred Couples survived this rite of passage with the help of something supernatural. 


Couples held a three-stroke lead heading towards the treacherous No. 12.  But when his tee shot came up short, and hit the sloping bank of Rae's Creek, Couples' dreams of winning the Masters were about to wash away. 

There was really no reason Couples' ball should have stopped.  Nothing was in its way.  Nothing that anyone could have seen that is.  99 out of 100 times that ball winds up in a watery grave.  But miraculously it held on.  "The biggest break probably of my life," Couples said afterwards. 

Couples chipped up to inside a foot and held on to win his first major by two strokes.  But Augusta officials could have stopped the tournament right there and declared Couples the winner.  His ball was touched by an angel. 

The Worst 
Tom Weiskopf was known on Tour as "The Towering Inferno."  By Weiskopf's own admission, he was "spontaneous with his emotions."  And during the opening round of the 44th Masters at No. 12, Weiskopf threw a match in the gas tank. 


Weiskopf's tee shot hit the green, skipped forward, and then spun like a Ninja Blender down the bank to drown in Rae's Creek.  Weiskopf dropped from 60 yards and the result was an exact copy of his first shot.  Hop, skip, and dunk. Weiskopf started percolating. 

Weiskopf detonated his third shot center-creek, splashed his fourth shot with a direct-hit, and drenched his fifth shot with mainstream perfection. 

In the 1980 Masters Weiskopf hit five shots into the water in about a five-minute span, en route to a record-setting 13 on No. 12.  And oh by the way?  In Weiskopf's previous 12 Masters appearances he didn't hit a single ball in the water on No. 12. 

No 13: Azalea - Par 5, 510 yards 

The Best 
When your ball is on pine straw and there are two gigantic trees in front of you, the percentage play is to lay up and avoid the big number.  But for Phil Mickelson in the final round of the 2010 Masters, the play was to thread the needle and sew up his third green jacket. 


Greatness or fate took over on No. 13 when Mickelson fired his 6-iron through the trees, over Rae's Creek, to four feet from the cup.  Mickelson missed the eagle attempt but sunk the birdie.  And his one-stroke lead suddenly became a more comfortable two-stroke lead. 

Mickelson didn't have to hit that shot.  And maybe he shouldn't have.  But "Phil the Thrill" wanted to.  "A great shot is when you pull it off," Mickelson said afterwards.  "A smart shot is when you don't have the guts to try it."  It's hard to argue with that when the guy saying it just won the 74th Masters. 

The Worst 
Tommy Nakajima was a fierce competitor on the Japanese Tour in 1978.  But a comedy of errors in the first round of the 42nd Masters led to Nakajima posting the highest score ever recorded on Azalea. 


Nakajima's drive on No. 13 sailed into the woods and forced him to take an unplayable.  After Nakajima laid up, his fourth shot flew into Rae's Creek.  Not wanting to take another unplayable, Nakajima hit from the creek and popped the ball in the air.  It landed on Nakajima's foot for a two-stroke penalty. 

Nakajima's  next shot hit the creek bank and rolled back where he was standing. The ball didn't hit Nakijima this time.  But Nakajima slammed his club on the water in frustration and was slapped with a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a hazard. 

Nakajima finally chipped out onto the green, and two-putt to close the book on No. 13 with a perplexing 13.  When asked after the round where is all went wrong, Nakajima simply replied, "On the tee." 

No. 14: Chinese Fir - Par 4, 440 yards 

The Best 
The greatest moment in the history of No. 14 came during the final round of the 1997 Masters when Tiger Woods' birdie changed the game forever. 


Woods' birdie established a new Masters record for lowest tournament score (270, 18-under).  It set a new Masters record for largest margin of victory (12 strokes).  And it punctuated Woods dominance as the youngest player and first black man to ever win the green jacket. 

When Jack Nicklaus first set those records in 1965, Bobby Jones said of Nicklaus, "He plays a game with which I am not familiar." 

At the 61st Masters, Woods not only played a game with which Nicklaus was not familiar, but he played it in a way that elevated golf to a new sociological plateau. 

The Worst 
Fred Couples was 46-years old in 2006.  He had no trouble keeping up with young guns off the tee.  And during the final round of the 70th Masters, Couples hit the ball like a Masters champion.  He just didn't putt like one. 


Couples had a four-foot birdie putt on No. 14 to pull within one stroke of leader Phil Mickelson.  But he jabbed the putt across the lip and five feet past the cup. Couples missed his putt coming back for an eventual three-putt bogey. 

From tee-to-green Couples was as good as anyone in the field.  But his flat-stick left him puttering to a third-place finish.  "I didn't hit the ball like I was 46," Couples said afterwards.  But I putted like I was 66."  It was Couples best opportunity for a second green jacket, and would have made him the oldest champion in Masters history. 

No. 15: Firethorn - Par 5, 530 yards 

The Best 
Gene Sarazen knew he caught the ball pure.  It left the face like a gunshot. It never wavered from its direct line to the pin.  When it reached the green, a thunderous roar went up.  When it dropped in the cup, the roar was deafening.  In the final round of the second Masters in 1935, Sarazen hit "The Shot Heard Round the World." 


Sarazen used a 4-wood from 235 yards to record the first albatross in Masters history.  It launched "The Squire" into a 36-hole playoff where Sarazen defeated Craig Wood for his first and only green jacket.  And more importantly, Sarazen's double-eagle permanently put The Masters on the map. 

Sarazen's "Do-Do" (that's what Sarazen called his Wilson Turf Rider 4-wood) is in the USGA Museum for generations to marvel at.  And in 1955 Augusta National honored Sarazen's unforgettable shot by dedicating a bridge in his name.  "The Sarazen Bridge" is the first bridge to ever be named after a player in Augusta's history. 

The Worst
Tiger Woods nearly recorded the fifth albatross in Masters history when his approach at No. 15 hit the flag during the second round of the 77th Masters.  But after his ball diabolically caromed off the flag and rolled into the water, Woods' next shot would become a "Firethorn" in his side. 


Woods took his drop, and got up-and-down for a bogey six.  But a television viewer noticed Woods dropped the ball a few yards further back from the pin, a violation of the rule to "drop as near as possible" to the original spot. 

Rules officials discussed the drop with Woods, and he admitted to dropping further back so he wouldn't hit the flag again.  Woods was not disqualified, a two-stroke penalty was assessed, and his score at No. 15 was officially a triple-bogey eight.  But Woods admission set off an ugly storm of controversy. 

Journalists, commentators, fans, and players called for Woods to withdraw for knowingly attempting to circumvent the rules.  Woods might have been cheated out of a double-eagle on No. 15 and a potential fifth green jacket, but allegations of Woods cheating himself was the biggest character test of all. 

No. 16: Redbud - Par 3, 170 yards 

The Best 
Tiger Woods was in a final-round battle with Chris DeMarco at the 69th Masters in 2005.  And Woods appeared wounded on No. 16 when his 8-iron missed the green long and left.  Woods couldn't take dead-aim at the hole because of the severe slope of the green.  But that didn't mean Woods wouldn't attack the cup. 


Woods picked a spot 25-feet left of the pin, and chipped.  His ball checked up, broke right, and picked up speed.  But then slowed to a dead stop... for two seconds.  It was golf's version of the Heisman pose before crossing the goal line. Woods' ball freakishly dropped over the edge for an impossible birdie. 

Woods roared like a gladiator.  The crowd went berserk.  And it took several minutes before any semblance of normalcy returned.  Woods ultimately needed a playoff to defeat DeMarco and capture his fourth green jacket.  But... "In your life..."  You know the rest. 

The Worst 
Greg Norman is the most heartbreaking character in Masters history.  And Norman's legendary low-point occurred in the final round of the 60th Masters. 


Norman began play with a six-stroke lead over Nick Faldo.  But when Norman arrived at No. 16 it had decomposed into a two-stroke deficit.  With only three holes left to get those strokes back, Norman fired at the pin hoping for an ace. Instead he butchered his 6-iron into the water. 

In 1996 Norman blew the biggest final-round lead in Masters history.  And his 6-iron on No. 16 was the "recognition" of this "Greek Tragedy." 

No. 17: Nandina - Par 4, 440 yards 

The Best 
When Jack Nicklaus arrived at Augusta National for the 50th Masters in 1986, no one gave him any chance of winning.  Nicklaus was 46-years old and past his prime.  But Nicklaus rolled back the years.  And then on No. 17 he rolled in the putt. 


Nicklaus found himself locked in a dogfight with Greg Norman, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros, and Tom Kite to start the second-9.  But Jack separated himself from Norman and Langer with a birdie at No. 13, an eagle at No. 15, and another birdie at No. 16.  Nicklaus charge on the second-9 was the greatest stretch of competitive golf ever played. 

Then on No. 17, tied for the lead with Ballesteros and Kite, Nicklaus sank the most famous putt in Masters history. 

Staring down a double-breaking 12-foot putt, with a train whistle screaming in the background, and the opportunity for Nicklaus to grab sole possession of The Masters lead for the first time in 11 years, Jack's killer instinct took over. 

Nicklaus gently stroked his mammoth putter, raised his left arm triumphantly in the air, and chased his ball down the hole for birdie.  Nicklaus was a six-time Masters champion.  And the signature moment was Jack's magical putt on No. 17. 

The Worst 
Stuart Applbey enjoyed a four-stroke advantage to start the third round of the 71st Masters in 2007.  But on No. 17, the "Eisenhower Tree" issued a high-command resignation of Applbey's lead. 


Applbey pulled his tee shot so far left, it flew over the famous pine and into a greenside bunker one fairway over.  Applbey then caught his 9-iron thin out of the bunker and dropped it in a stockpile of pine cones. 

It took Applbey two more shots to reach the correct green.  And after his three-putt for a very un-presidential triple-bogey, Applbey said, "Stuff like that happens.  That's Augusta." 

No. 18: Holly - Par 4, 465 yards 

The Best 
Phil Mickelson came into the 68th Masters needing a major resuscitation. Mickelson was an agonizing 0-for-11 in previous Masters appearances.  And in 2004, Mickelson's putt on No. 18 proved to be a real heart-stopper. 


A 20-foot birdie putt on No. 18 was the only thing standing between Mickelson and his first Masters championship.  But the odds were not in Mickelson's favor. Only five players in Masters history had birdied the 72nd hole to win the green jacket. 

Mickelson's putt looked like it was going to barely miss left.  But it caught a piece of the lip, circled around the hole, and dropped in.  And Mickelson... well, he hopped. 

Maybe the relief of finally winning a major got the best of Mickelson.  His jump for joy wasn't exactly gravity-defying.  But it was a Mickelodean moment hard to top in the putt-making celebration category. 

The Worst 
Arnold Palmer strolled up the fairway during the final round of the 25th Masters confident in his third green jacket coronation.  All Palmer had to do was par No. 18 like he'd done the previous three rounds.  But "The King" put his head on a chopping block. 


Palmer pushed his approach right into the greenside bunker.  Then he skulled his bunker shot across the green and into the gallery.  Palmer's next shot raced 15 feet past the hole.  And finally Palmer missed a putt that would have at least forced a playoff. 

It was a brutal turn of events for Palmer, who finished one stroke behind Masters champion Gary Player.  Palmer would still go on to win two more green jackets, but in 1961, "The King" could not escape the guillotine. 

PREVIOUSLY: The Best and Worst Shots in Masters History: The Front 9

Follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

No comments:

Post a Comment