Masters 2014: The Hardest Back Nine In Golf

Thanks to television, Augusta National’s fabled back nine has become as familiar as your local municipal. But how does it feel to play, and just how hard is it? The experts offer their insights

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Hole 10: "Camelia" Par 4, 495 yards

 

 


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Bruce Critchley (Sky Sports Golf Commentator)

“You’ve nine holes to play, you’re tired having played the front nine in par, but Augusta is a razor’s edge to walk along on the way home. The back nine’s got more opportunities for birdies, but at a greater risk of dropping two or three shots. The 10th tee can be tough: there’s the knowledge that a player’s only going to get away with a four if he plays the hole really well. The second shot’s hard: the horror of missing the green is a bunker on the right hand side that’s very difficult to play from. It has a high lip to get over and the green has a sharp slope.”

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Billy Foster (Caddy for Seve Ballesteros, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood)

“The atmosphere coming down the back nine at Augusta is the ultimate pressure cooker in golf, and there are minute differences between success and failure. The drive on 10 needs a right-to-left shot around a dog-leg and then it’s a shot to the green to keep it under the hole for an uphill putt. You could pitch two balls a couple of feet apart on the 10th green. One might be close to the hole, the other could end up 80ft away, and then you’re putting back down a marble staircase.”



Hole 11: "White Dogwood" Par 4,505 yards

 

 


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Bruce Critchley

“This is the start of Amen Corner – holes 11, 12, and 13. They’re like the 17th at St Andrews in that players having disasters have created legends for these holes, especially after someone’s run up a 14 and blown their chances. The 11th is a difficult start because it’s been lengthened for modern equipment. A small green and a water hazard are the big fears, and they’re fears that stay with a player for the next three holes.”

Billy Foster

“I caddied for Seve Ballesteros at Augusta and he was like a demented Rottweiler by the time he’d got to Amen Corner. I’d have to put a lead on him to keep his emotions under control. The best tee shot on 11 is a fade; for the second you want a shot on the green that leaves an uphill putt. There are some holes where you’d rather be 20 feet under the hole than 10 feet above it. That sounds stupid, but if you know you can roll it at the hole uphill from 20 feet then you’ve got a chance of sinking it. It’s harder if you’re above the hole and it’s a shorter, faster putt – it can slide another 10 feet past.”

Hole 12 "Golden Bell" Par 3, 155 yards

 

 


Ewen Murray (Former professional golfer; Sky Sports golf commentator)

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“The first time I played 12, I wondered what the fuss was about. It seemed like a straightforward 8-iron to me. The hole is deceptive because the tee’s exposed, but the green isn’t, and legend tells you that the wind changes down there. I hit my tee shot and it finished in the middle of the water, I couldn’t believe it. It’s the easiest-looking of the par-3s at Augusta, but it’s also the toughest I’ve ever played.”

Billy Foster

“One time when I was caddying for Sergio Garcia, our playing partner [US golfer] Mark Calcavecchia, went into Rae’s Creek. He then hit his dropped ball short of the green and it spun back into the water. He hit another into the bunker. Calcavecchia went from third to 60th. When he got to the green, he was so angry. He couldn’t find the ball marker in his pocket, and he went mental, ripping the fabric and splitting his trousers from hip to knee. I was at the back of the green on my hands and knees, tears running down my face. If I’d laughed out loud, I’d have got a 3-iron around the back of my head.”

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Hole 13: "Azalea" Par 5, 510 yards

 

 


 

Ian Woosnam (1991 Masters Champion' Sky Sports golf commentator)

“This is a great hole. I bogeyed it on the final day when I won in 1991. I was playing with Tom Watson and he eagled it, and took three shots off me. I remember I had to wait on the tee for 20 minutes to hit my drive. I pulled it into the creek and the audience clapped.” 

Billy Foster

“The fairway is such that the ball will be a foot above your stance when you play off it for your second shot, meaning a lot of people hitting the bank (of the green) and coming back into the water. The shot that broke my heart came here when I was caddying for Lee Westwood in 2010. We were in the last group, playing with Phil Mickelson. Phil hit his drive through the fairway and into the woods. I thought he was going to hit it on the fairway, short of the creek, leaving a 40-yard chip to the pin. Instead, he ummed and ahhed for five minutes, and then he hit his shot. ‘What the fucking hell is he doing?’ I thought. ‘That’s in the water.’ But it carried onto the green and ran to within three feet of the hole. It was one of the best shots I’d ever seen. Ultimately, it won him the Masters.”

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Hole 14 "Chinese Fir"  Par 4, 4,440 yards

 

 


 

Mark James (1999 Ryder Cup captain, BBC Golf commentator)

“The tough thing about 14 is the green: the pin is placed on a small segment and if you miss it, the ball can run away, leaving you with a bendy, 60ft putt. The Stimpmeter (which measures the speed of greens) is 13-plus here; on a local course with very fast greens it’s a 10. So, instead of aiming your six-foot putt at the right lip of the cup, a 13-plus green needs you to aim a full cup on the right. It’s like putting on glass.”

Billy Foster

“This is one of the most sloping greens on the golf course. In 2010, on the Saturday, I thought somebody might hole their second shot there because the pin had been placed between two slopes feeding into the cup. Lee Westwood had a five-shot lead at the time, but as we were playing 11, we heard a massive roar – Mickelson had eagled 13. Then a short while later I caught the loudest roar I’d ever heard at Augusta – Mickelson had just holed his second on 14. He nearly eagled 15, too. In a space of 20 minutes, Lee had gone from a five-shot lead to one behind. It was unbelievable.”

Hole 15 "Fire Thorn" Par 5, 530 yards

 

 


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Bruce Critchley

“Augusta is a straight-line graph: the safer you play from the tee, the greater the difficulty of the second shot. For long hitters, a big drive means they can play a short iron to the flag, but if they get it wrong, the penalties are big.”

Mark James

“If you can bring your second shot in from a great height, it’ll land that much softer on the green. A low 5-iron will bounce almost 30 or 40 feet, which means you’re not getting near the pin. If you hit it too long, the ground slopes downhill to more water at the back.”

Billy Foster

“It’s critical you get the right club in your hand for the second shot on 15. You need to aim for the widest part of the green (if you’re aiming to reach it in two). If you pitch it a couple of yards short, it’ll go in the water. If you land it 15 yards into the green, it’ll bounce over. In 1993, Seve laid up short of the green with his second. Then he chunked his chip into the water and Bernhard Langer went on to win. Of course, it was my fault because Seve felt the lay-up shot had been too close to the green – it was 80 yards back instead of 85. He said to me, ‘Bill-ee, you son of a bitch, you are the worst caddy I ever had.’”

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Hole 16 "Red Bud" Par 3, 170 yards

 

 


 

Ian Woosnam

“The green has got a massive slope with a tier on the right hand side coming down to the bunker on the left and the water. On Sunday in 1991, the pin was back left on the edge; I chipped it down and holed the putt. Putting on those greens when you’re in contention is nerve-wracking. If you get yourself in a bad position it’s very hard to two-putt. It’s not about beating other people at Augusta, it’s about beating yourself.”

Billy Foster

“Sometimes you feel the wind in your face and you still ask yourself, ‘Have I got the right club?’ I remember Seve hitting a great tee shot here, straight down the flag. But the ball pitched right at the top of the bunker where it was rock-hard. It bounced like it’d landed on a trampoline, over the bunker and into the water. In the air it looked like it was going to be a foot from the hole, but we walked off with a double-bogey. He let me off that one because it was incredibly bad luck.”

Hole 17 "Nandina" Par 4, 440 yards

 

 


 

Mark James

“When I played the Masters in 1980, the Eisenhower Tree was on the left and a lot of players struggled to carry it. It was a tough tee shot. [The tree was cut down after an ice storm earlier this year] When they plant new trees at Augusta, they don’t put in saplings; they’ll put in 25, 30-footers. Something will pop up. The atmosphere kicks into overdrive here. The fans sit in the same place all day and if a leader makes double-bogey on 17 and the person behind them sinks a birdie, the crowd gets pumped.”

Billy Foster

“There are a lot of players relieved not to see the Eisenhower Tree there. It was 70ft high and 250 yards off the tee, so you were looking at 275 yards to carry it. The key to 17 is getting the tee shot away and in position on the fairway. If you don’t, you’re not going to get that ball on the green because it’s one of the firmest on the course and built for an 8-iron. It should be easier off the tee now though, unless they’ve put the Eiffel Tower there – you won’t put owt past that.”

Hole 18 "Holly" Par 4, 465 yards

 

 


 

Ewen Muray

“Here, the gallery is 15-deep and it’s noisy. Hit the ball to the right and you’re playing from among the Georgia pines, where [the debris] means that it’s impossible to keep your footing. When Ian Woosnam won in 1991, he flew his drive over the left-hand bunkers and into the members’ driving range where the ground is flat. I’m surprised others haven’t taken that route, especially as the ball now travels 15 per cent further than it did 25 years ago.”

Billy Foster

“At the back of the tee, looking straight down, you think, ‘We’ve got to walk up here single file.’ The trees are 100ft tall either side of the fairway and it seems like a 15-yard gap in between.”

Ian Woosnam

“Walking off the 18th green as a winner is the greatest feeling in the world. You dream of places like that in heaven. If I go to heaven I want it to be a golf course like Augusta.”

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