Kevin Markham tackles the Masters toughest tests...


The keys to unlocking Masters glory

Nothing comes easy at Augusta, but some puzzles are more difficult to solve than others. Kevin Markham tackles the Masters toughest tests...

The keys to unlocking Masters glory

It is not a question that can be answered with any certainty. Not even the winners at Augusta National could provide a truly definitive answer, although Tiger Woods knows better than most after his 12-stroke victory in 1997. There are any number of ways to win (or lose) and, until you’ve actually won, you just never know what might happen. Last year’s collapse by Jordan Spieth is a prime example with Danny Willett a somewhat surprising – and surprised – winner.

Water appears on five holes so the number one priority is to avoid the attractive if lethal features such as Rae’s Creek. Next up, the pine ‘straw’ – as it’s called at Augusta – is rarely a good place to be, although Phil Mickelson coped with it better than most when winning in 2010. The club placed a plaque by the tree from behind which he hit that remarkable 6-iron. Even so, the lie is a lottery and best avoided.

Bunkers, trees and the azaleas all pose threats but even when you find the green grass there are still all manner of challenges ahead. Here are six places where the pressure really mounts.

Hole 1, Tea Olive, 445 yards, Par 4

Any debutant will tell you how nerve-wracking it is to stand on the 1st tee on Thursday. Just about every one of the world’s greatest golfers has teed off here and you could cut the tension with a knife. The old hands who have played here many times say it rarely gets any easier. What’s that expression… you can’t win a tournament on the first day, but you certainly can lose it! On his most recent visits, Tiger has found the trees on the left with surprising frequency.

Hole 8, Yellow Jasmine, 570 yards, Par 5

An uphill hole that goes straight before darting left at the last minute. The place to avoid is short and left of the green. With many golfers capable of reaching the green in two the temptation is to go for it but, if you are remotely left, you may well be blocked by the trees and hidden from the putting surface by some severe mounding. In the third round in 1999, Brandel Chamblee was well up the leaderboard. After a big drive, he took aim for the green 250 yards away, only for the ball to pull left and into the clump of pines short of the green. He failed to escape with his first attempt and ended up with a double bogey. “From Masters champ to Masters chump in 550 yards,” is how he put it.

Hole 9, Carolina Cherry, 460 yards, Par 4

Augusta is well known for its turbulent slopes and undulating terrain. The 9th green displays just how challenging they can be. It slopes from back-to-front so severely even when you have found the putting surface your ball can roll off the green and back down the fairway. In 1996, Greg Norman hit a thundering wedge into the green. It spun off and rolled almost 30 yards back towards him. He made bogey on a day that turned into a horror show for the Australian.

Hole 10, Camelia, 495 yards, Par 4

Just about everything that makes Augusta the course it is can be summed up on this hole. A downhill drive into a right to left dogleg. Your drive needs to favour the left – although not as far left as Rory in 2011 – or else you will end up with a downhill lie, with the ball above your feet.

The angle to the green is all wrong from the right-hand side, never mind this is one of Augusta’s smallest greens. From here, most golfers end up left of the green – although not as far left as Rory in 2011 – or in the bunker on the right as you over-compensate… as Nick Faldo did in his 1989 play-off. He made bogey, sure he’d lost, and then watched as Scott Hoch missed a simple par putt. Faldo won on the next hole.

Alongside the 11th and 12th, the back nine starts with the three hardest holes on the course.

Hole 12, Golden Bell, 155 yards, Par 3

The shortest hole at Augusta has, over the history of the Masters, proved to be the third most difficult on the course.

“One of the most fierce, trembling holes,” said Gary Player, describing the affect it could have on a golfer standing on the tee. Swirling winds at the bottom of the golf course make distance hard to judge. Hitting short means a certain visit to Rae’s Creek, while hitting long means a downhill shot to a shallow green with the water waiting beyond. You could even find yourself in one of the two bunkers behind the green, which makes it more nerve-wracking still… just ask Jordan Spieth, who had a quadruple bogey seven last year despite getting up and down from one of those back bunkers.

Hole 13, Azalea, 510 yards, Par 5

With birdies and eagles aplenty, the short par five 13th is one of the most influential holes in determining the eventual winner. For those going for the green in two the one place you don’t want to be is off the back. Your ball will be below the putting surface with the steeply sloping green running away from you down to Rae’s Creek.

In 2005, Tiger Woods found himself in this very spot, leaving him with a 70-foot eagle attempt. He played his shot and knew instantly it was overcooked. He and viewers around the world watched as the ball slipped off the green and into Rae’s Creek. Tiger made bogey but still went on to win his fourth Green Jacket.

All the greens

It is, however, the greens which remain Augusta’s most mesmerising and fearsome factor.

There is rarely a straight putt and a two-footer is no done deal… so figuring out where to leave your approach shot, and even your first putt, will stop a two-putt turning into a four-putt.

Seve four-putted the 16th in 1990, uttering the insightful “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make” quote. In 2014, Brandt Snedeker, one of the best putters in the game, went one better when taking five strokes from inside eight feet on the 4th green.

“To play on putting surfaces that you can actually see your reflection at times is very intimidating,” David Feherty once said. “No question those greens make you sweat.” To put it simply, as difficult as the holes are, the greens are where the Masters is won and lost.

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