Monday, April 6, 2015

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

NEXT: The Best and Worst Shots in Masters History: The Second 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. 1: Tea Olive - Par 4, 445 yards 

The Best 
It wasn't a particularly long drive.  It didn't set up a scoring opportunity.  But 40-year ago Lee Elder became the first black man to play in The Masters, and his opening drive on Tea Olive ripped through the color barrier at Augusta National once and for all. 


By the late 1960's Congress was troubled that no African-American had ever played in The Masters.  And in 1973 they called for Augusta co-founder Clifford Roberts to extend a special invitation to Elder.  The soft-spoken Elder would have none of it.  "I don't want anything special," Elder said.  "I will make it on my own." 

And he did.  Elder qualified for the 39th Masters by winning the Monsanto Open.  Though he'd miss the cut that year, Elder went on to play in six other Masters.  But more importantly, Elder's tee shot in 1975 paved the way for the likes of Calvin Peete, Jim Thorpe, and Tiger Woods, and created a legacy that would make the game better for us all. 

The Worst 
"Slammin' Sammy" Snead's beautiful, yet powerful swing is considered  by many to be the sweetest in the history of the game.  But at the 25th Masters in 1961, Snead's opening drive created a scene that almost gave new meaning to his moniker. 


Snead didn't give the group ahead of him time to clear the landing area, and his drive nearly shaved the whiskers off fellow competitor Tommy Bolt.  Bolt, known on Tour as "Terrible Tommy," gave Snead a searing tongue-lashing and even considered "slammin" Sammy, before cooler heads prevailed. 

Bolt's tirade wasn't as frightening as say, Mike Tyson's "I want to eat your babies" rant towards Lennox Lewis.  And fisticuffs were ultimately avoided.  But Snead's psyche was rattled.  The normally unflappable Snead missed a two-foot putt for par, and went on to finish nine shots off the lead. 

No. 2: Pink Dogwood - Par 5, 575 yards 

The Best
Louis Ooosthuizen doesn't have a green jacket like 1935 Masters champion Gene Sarazen.  But thanks to a preposterous double-eagle during the final round of the 2012 Masters, he does have a place in the "Albatross Club" alongside Sarazen. 


Oosthuizen's albatross was straight out of an EA Sports PGA Tour video game. 4 iron, 256 yards, ball hits short of the green, ball bounces favorably onto the green, ball catches the perfect slope, ball feeds some 90-feet towards the hold, ball drops gently over the front lip. 

It was the fourth double-eagle in Masters history, the first ever on Pink Dogwood, and it gave Oosthuizen the outright lead.  But when Bubba Watson's slapstick hook-shot on the second playoff hole secured the 76th Masters championship, any thoughts of an "Oosthuizen Bridge" were laid to rest. 

The Worst 
David Duval tore up Augusta National during his practice rounds leading up to the 70th Masters in 2006.  But after he duck-hooked his drive on No. 2 deep in the pines, you had to wonder if Duval himself wanted to duck under the ropes and just skip town. 


Looking more like a weekend hacker than the former No. 1 player in the world, Duval needed six shots, including two penalty strokes just to reach the greenside bunker.  By the time it was over, the result was a second-round, quintuple-bogey 10, the highest score ever on Pink Dogwood. 

To his credit Duval turned back the clock with four birdies over a six-hole stretch later in the round.  But his gallant effort was too little, too late.  Duval finished 15-over par in one of the most bipolar rounds Augusta National has ever seen.  And Duval remained an enigma, wrapped in a paradox, shrouded in Augusta pine.

No 3: Flowering Peach - Par 4, 350 yards 

The Best 
Historically, Flowering Pach has been more like a sour lemon when it comes to eagles surrendered.  But in 2011 Charles Schwartzel became the only player in Masters history to eagle No. 3 en route to victory. 


Schwartzel's hole-out wedge from 114-yards set the tone for what followed. Schwartzel recorded the lowest final-round score of any Masters champion in two decades, and also became the first Masters champion to birdie the last-four holes on the final day. 

The 75th Masters featured a Tiger Woods charge, a Rory McIlroy collapse, and challenges by Jason Day and Adam Scott.  But on this chaotic afternoon at Augusta, Flowering Peach was only sweet for Schwartzel

The Worst 
It's usually a good idea to "get something off your chest."  For Jeff Maggert in 2003, it wasn't.  Maggert felt the sting of golf's cruel side when his second shot on No. 3 clipped the front lip of a fairway bunker, backfired off his chest, and fell tauntingly almost to the same spot he'd just hit from. 


After a two-stroke penalty was assessed, Maggert's next shot flew over the green, followed by another shot that ran 18-feet past the hole.  And just that quickly, Maggert and his 54-hole lead was done. 

Maggert was inconsolable after his triple-bogey seven on Flowering Peach.  It was probably the main reason he didn't become the 67th Masters champion.  "I'd like to play that hole over again," Maggert said afterwards.  "I know that much." Golf, cruel?  Really? 

No. 4: Flowering Crab Apple - Par 3, 240 yards 

The Best 
Jeff Sluman is a jockey-size 5-7, 141 pounds, and has always been one of the smallest players on Tour.  But in 1992 Sluman hit one of the biggest shots in Masters history, and became the only player to ever record a hole-in-one on Augusta's formidable fourth hole. 


In the first round of the 56th Masters, Sluman grabbed a 4-iron and struck his ball into swirling winds deceptive enough to complicate club selection.  "It looked pretty good when it left the club," Sluman said.  "But you never dreamed it was going in."  Sluman's ball landed 20-feet short of the hole, slowly crawled uphill, and barely fell into the cup. 

After Sluman's ace, a fan in the crowd yelled out asking for the ball, and the good-natured Sluman obliged, tossing it into the gallery.  The fan was his mom

The Worst 
You know the expression "you have to see it to believe it?"  That probably sums up the bizarre sequence of shots Phil Mickelson hit on the fourth hole of the 76th Masters in 2012.  After Mickelson's tee shot clanked off the grandstand and into Augusta's wooded foliage, it went beyond "Phil being Phil."  It went Lefty being Righty." 


Mickelson turned his wedge upside-down and played right-handed.  On his first attempt the ball dribbled out about a foot.  Mickelson nearly axed himself in the leg on an awkward second attempt.  And his third attempt landed in the same greenside bunker Mickelson was aiming for in the first place off the tee. 

Mickelson's bunker shot nearly dropped in, but the eventual triple-bogey six doomed any chance Mickelson had to win his fourth green jacket.  Mickelson fell one-shot off the lead, to five-shots back.  And it just goes to show, no matter who you are, or how well things are going, anything can happen at Augusta National

No. 5: Magnolia - Par 4, 445 yards 

The Best 
Jack Nicklaus owns nearly every significant Masters record there is.  Most wins, most runner-ups, and most top-5 finishes all belong to Jack.  And in 1995, Nicklaus became the only player in Masters history to eagle the same hole, twice in the same tournament. 


Eagle number one came during the first round of the 59th Masters from 185 yards out.  Nicklaus grabbed his 5-iron, fired at the pin, and his ball found the hole on the fly.  Prior to that Nicklaus hadn't eagled Magnolia in 36 previous Masters appearances.  But Nicklaus wasn't done yet. 

Lightning struck twice for Nicklaus when in the third round he pulled a 7-iron from 165 yards for his second eagle of the round.  Nicklaus admitted afterwards he aimed for the middle of the green because of a difficult pin position.  But his ball landed a few feet from the hole instead, and rolled in.  It's good to be Jack. 

The Worst 
Practice?  What are we talking about, practice?  Before there was Allen Iverson, there was Dow Finsterwald.  And yes, Finsterwald was talking about practice. Because sometimes practice makes perfect.  But other times it destroys your chance to become a Masters champion. 


In the opening round of the 24th Masters in 1960 Finsterwald made a routine par on Magnolia.  He pulled his ball from the cup, dropped it back on the putting surface, and hit it off the green in the direction of the sixth tee.  It was the worst shot Finsterwald never had to take. 

The next day Finsterwald was assessed a retroactive two-stroke penalty for what was deemed an illegal practice stroke.  Finsterwald wasn't disqualified since his practice stroke didn't occur with the ball in play.  But he finished one shot behind eventual winner Arnold Palmer, and cost him the opportunity to play Palmer in an 18-hole playoff. 

No. 6: Juniper - Par 3, 180 yards 

The Best 
The Open Championship hadn't been played in three years, the U.S. Open was cancelled, and the PGA Championship was postponed.  The world was at war and a hero was needed.  In a 1942 playoff at the ninth Masters, Byron Nelson obliged. 


Nelson was visibly pale and exhausted, suffering from a severe stomach virus before the playoff began.  Ben Hogan offered to postpone the playoff, but Nelson refused.  Down three shots to Hogan to start No. 6, Nelson stuffed an iron close to the pin for birdie, setting off a stretch of golf that can only be called "cruel in perfection." 

Nelson went six-under par over the next eight holes to hold off Hogan by one shot.  Hogan called it the best stretch of golf he'd ever seen.  And Nelson's "never give up" mentality gave the country something to rally around, and made Nelson one of the greatest Masters champions of all-time. 

The Worst 
Jose Maria Olazabal was one-shot off the lead in the second round of the 1991 Masters when his tee shot fell short of the green on No. 6.  It seemed harmless enough until Olazabal needed four more shots just to get his ball on the putting surface. 


The green on Juniper is sloped downward to such degree, that players over the years have joked "an elephant must be buried beneath it." 

Olazabal's first chip rolled back to his feet.  His second shot was a carbon copy. Even his third shot rolled off the back edge.  Olazabal took a quadruple-bogey seven for the hole.  And his safari on No. 6 played a key role in finishing one stroke behind the 55th Masters champion Ian Woosnam. 

No. 7: Pampas - Par 4, 450 yards 

The Best 
After Byron Nelson won the fourth Masters Tournament in 1937, the shot that had everyone talking was his opening tee shot on No. 7.  He drove the green. Nelson went on to win a second green jacket a few years later, but he'd never again reach the green in one on Pampas. 


The birdie on No. 7 certainly contributed to Nelson's championship, but just as importantly, it highlighted the fact that something had to be done about the pint-sized, drive-and-pitch par 4 that only measured 340 yards. 

A few years later Pampas was lengthened to 365 yards.  And changed in 2002 and 2006 brought No. 7 to its current 450 yards.  Nelson is often credited for being the father of present-day Augusta No. 7. 

The Worst 
Charles Coody has the reputation for being one of the most disciplined players on Tour.  Coody was the last player you'd expect to come unglued.  But in the first round of the 36th Masters in 1972, that's exactly what happened to the defending champion. 


Coody just recorded an ace on No. 6, so he should have been relaxed.  But Coody sprayed his drive right, then hooked his approach left.  And hitting out of the bunker turned into an episode of "The Twilight Zone." 

Coody nearly whiffed at his first attempt.  He barely moved the ball on his second attempt.  And Coody's third attempt unbelievably also stayed in the sand. Coody needed a fourth bunker shot to get up and down for the highest score ever recorded on No. 7, a triple-bogey seven. 

No. 8: Yellow Jasmine - Par 5, 570 yards 

The Best 
Bruce Devlin never won a Masters championship.  But in the first round of the 31st Masters in 1967, he became only the second player to record a double-eagle in Masters history. 


Devlin was dealing with painful blisters on both feet that afternoon, and never really played himself into contention.  Devlin would later say it was the only good shot he hit all day.  A 4-wood, 248 yards out, that hit the front of the green and tracked into the hole. 

When Gene Sarazen was told of Devlin's double-eagle, he said Devlin's shot was harder than his own in 1935 because Devlin couldn't even see the target he was shooting for.  For the record, Devlin's was also 13 yards longer. 

The Worst 
Augusta National sinks its teeth into every player eventually.  Even the Masters foremost champion Jack Nicklaus.  Nicklaus recorded his first triple-bogey at Augusta during the second round of the 34th Masters in 1970. 


Nicklaus was just three shots off the lead at the time, and had a clean look at getting on in two, but uncharacteristically hooked his approach shot into the woods short of the green.  Making matters worse, Nicklaus couldn't find his ball, forcing him to take a stroke and distance penalty. 

Obviously frustrated by the turn of events, Nicklaus played his shot over, coming up short of the green again, and three-putt for a triple-bogey eight.  Nicklaus played well enough over the final 46 holes to finish in the top-10, but his fourth green jacket would have to wait. 

No. 9: Carolina Cherry - Par 4, 460 yards 

The Best 
What do you do if you're playing in the final round of a major, in a tournament no one gives you any chance of winning, and you're facing what can only be described as a must-make putt to keep any hopes of winning alive?  If you're 46-year old Jack Nicklaus in 1986 at the 50th Masters, you crack a joke. 


Jack stepped away from a 12-foot birdie opportunity on Carolina Cherry when he heard the crowd on No. 8 errupt for Tom Kite's eagle pitch-in.  Nicklaus stepped away again when a second roar broke out from No. 8, this time for Seve Ballesteros' eagle chip in.  

Before Nicklaus finally addressed his putt, he turned to the gallery nearest him and said, "Let's see if we can make the same kind of noise here."  Nicklaus putt hit the hole dead-center, and set the tone for a second-nine charge that would bring Nicklaus the loudest roar of all.  The roar of winning his sixth green jacket, and 18th career major. 

The Worst
Lanny Wadkins had always been supremely confident in his abilities on the golf course.  But there's a fine line between confidence and carelessness.  And Wadkins crossed that line during the second round of the 55th Masters in 1991 when he missed the shortest putt in Masters history. 


Wadkins had just missed a four-foot putt for par on Carolina Cherry and was left with a tap-in.  Not a pressure putt, not a knee-knocker, but a gimme just inches from the putt.  So naturally Wadkins decided to putt... backhanded. 

Wadkins completely missed the cup.  Of course.  And adding insult to injury, his ball rolled four feet past the hole leaving him with the exact same putt he had for par just moments earlier. 

NEXT: The Best and Worst Shots in Masters History: The Second 9

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