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Hole-by-hole look at Masters history

By John AntoniniApril 2, 2018, 4:48 pm

The Masters Tournament is unique for many reasons, not least of which is that it’s the only men’s major to be held on the same course every year. And although annual course differences are noticeable and will be widely discussed, Augusta National GC plays similarly year after year. The first hole is hard; the second not so much. The eighth and 13th holes have been among the tournament’s four easiest holes each of the last 10 years. The 11th hole has always been among the three most difficult during that span.

Such consistency makes it easy to evaluate the winners and to know what a player has to do to become a Masters champion. What are some of the notable performances by winners at each hole? Here are some examples. And click here for a photographic look at all 18 holes at Augusta National.

Hole No. 1, par 4, 445 yards, Tea Olive: How important is it for the eventual winner to get off to a good start in the tournament? Not as much as you might think. Tea Olive is one of the most difficult par 4s on the course and perhaps – given its annual position as the opening hole in the first major of the year – the most daunting in all of golf. Since World War II, 13 eventual champions made bogey or worse on their opening hole of the week; just seven made birdie. In fact, Tiger Woods made bogey on his first hole of the week in 1997, 2001 and 2005 and still won the tournament. In his four Masters wins, Woods is 3 over par on No. 1.

Hole No. 2, par 5, 575 yards, Pink Dogwood: If No. 1 is the most daunting hole Masters competitors face, the second hole brings a sigh of relief. It’s one of the easier holes on the course and the eventual champion takes advantage. Only four champions since World War II have been over par on the second hole, including Adam Scott in 2013, who bogeyed the hole in Round 1 and made three pars thereafter. Scott was the first champion to be over par on the second hole since Jack Nicklaus in 1963. Ralph Guldahl, the 1939 champ, played it the best, with an eagle and three birdies.

Hole No. 3, par 4, 350 yards, Flowering Peach: The shortest par 4 on the course, the third hole has been a birdie hole for Masters champions this century. Since 2001, 10 Masters winners have made two birdies or more on No. 3. Prior to 2001, only four champions made two birdies on the third hole. In 2011, Charl Schwartzel became the first Masters champion to eagle No. 3 when he jarred his approach from 114 yards in the final round.

Hole No. 4, par 3, 240 yards, Flowering Crab Apple (above): Historically, one of the toughest holes at Augusta National, No. 4 is the longest par 3 on the course and since it was lengthened by 30-35 yards prior to 2006, no Masters champion has been under par for the week. The last winner to play the fourth hole under par was Woods, who made one birdie and three pars in 2001.

Hole No. 5, par 4, 455 yards, Magnolia: Call this uphill, dogleg left the Trevor Immelman hole, for it’s where the 2008 Masters champion made his bones. The South African was 3 under for the week on No. 5, one of 11 players all-time (and the only champion) to make that score. Immelman was the only player in the top 10 in 2008 to play the fifth hole under par. In fact, No. 5 played slightly over par for the week and if Immelman had followed suit and made par all four rounds, he would have finished tied with Tiger Woods.

Hole No. 6, par 3, 180 yards, Juniper: The easiest par 3 on the course, Gay Brewer had no trouble with Juniper in 1967, making birdie there in each of the first three rounds. That he “only” made par on Sunday can’t hide the fact he owned the hole, and his birdies were the difference in Brewer’s one-stroke win over Bobby Nichols.

Hole No. 7, par 4, 450 yards, Pampas: An interesting change has occurred on the seventh hole, which was lengthened by about 40 yards in 2002 and 2006. Despite the added distance, not one Masters champion made a bogey on Pampas from 2002-13. But since 2014, the winner has made at least one bogey on the hole every year, with Jordan Spieth making two in 2015.

Hole No. 8, par 5, 570 yards, Yellow Jasmine: Eight Masters champions have played the eighth hole in 4 under par or better, including Horton Smith in the inaugural Masters in 1934. Smith went eagle-birdie-par-birdie on what was then the 17th hole as the nines were reversed that year. In 1979, Fuzzy Zoeller was 5 under on No. 8 with an eagle and three birdies. Billy Casper made double bogey in the final round in 1970. He is one of four champions with a 7 on his scorecard. The others: Gary Player, 13th hole, fourth round in 1961; Jack Nicklaus, 15th hole, second round in 1972; and Craig Stadler, second hole, third round in 1982.

Hole No. 9, par 4, 460 yards, Carolina Cherry (above): This was one of the holes lengthened prior to 2002 in what was then considered to be Augusta’s first “Tiger-proofing,” but Woods made sure the added distance didn’t impact his play. Although most Masters champions since 2002 have played the ninth hole in even par, Woods found his groove in 2005 and made three birdies and a par en route to his playoff win over Chris DiMarco. Five years earlier, Woods bogeyed the ninth hole in the opening round to complete a 4-over-par first nine and is the most recent champion to post a 40 on either the first or second nine.

Hole No. 10, par 4, 495 yards, Camellia: Seven players in Masters history have played the par-4 10th hole in 3 under for the week, only one of them a champion. Spieth made three birdies on Camellia en route to his first Masters title, and was the first player to birdie the first hole of the second nine in the final round since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999. Special mention should go to Adam Scott, who in 2013 became the first player in Masters history to win a playoff with a birdie on No. 10.

Hole No. 11, par 4, 505 yards, White Dogwood: Although there have been six 2’s in Masters history on the par-4 11th hole, the most famous hole-out was for a 3. In 1987, Larry Mize won on the second playoff hole when he chipped in for birdie from 140 feet to defeat Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros and become the first Augusta native to win the Masters. Mize also birdied the 11th hole in the first round, and had three pars thereafter.

Hole No. 12, par 3, 155 yards, Golden Bell: The shortest hole on the course is also one of the hardest. It’s so tough that two champions – Ballesteros in 1980 and Sandy Lyle in 1988 – made double bogey in the final round and still won. Conversely, Arnold Palmer was 2 under on the 12th hole in 1962; Nicklaus reached the same score in 1972 and 1975; and Phil Mickelson did it in 2004. 


Hole No. 13, par 5, 510 yards, Azalea (above): The 13th hole is often one of Augusta’s easiest, and the Masters champion usually plays it as such, although you wouldn’t tell from the last two years when Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia were even par on Azalea. Spieth, however, made four birdies there in 2015, one of 13 champions who were 4 under or better on the hole. Jimmy Demaret, in 1950, and Mickelson, in 2010, both made two eagles and two birdies for a spectacular 6-under-par total on No. 13. Four champions have made eagle on 13 in the final round: Byron Nelson (1937), Guldahl (1939), Palmer (1958), and Bernhard Langer (1993).

Hole No. 14, par 4, 440 yards, Chinese Fir: Mickelson, in 2010, is the only winner to make eagle on No. 14 during his championship year, when he holed out from 139 yards in the third round. Mickelson was 3 under on No. 14 for the week, the first winner with that score on the hole since Tom Watson in 1981.

Hole No. 15, par 5, 530 yards, Firethorn: The final par-5 hole on Augusta National has been the easiest hole on the course four times since 2006, when it was lengthened 25-30 yards. But a shot from the Masters’ infancy is what this hole is best remembered for. It’s where Gene Sarazen made his famous double eagle in the final round in 1935, his 235-yard, 4-wood shot immortalized by Herbert Warren Wind, who wrote, “there had never before been a shot in an important tournament as sensational as that double eagle.” Sarazen played No. 15 in 6 under for the week, with birdies in each of the first three rounds. In recent years, Woods, in 2002, Phil Mickelson, in 2006, and Sergio Garcia, in 2017, played the hole in 4 under, with Garcia making eagle in the final round in 2017.

Hole No. 16, par 3, 170 yards, Redbud: This water hole was the site of an incredible performance by Craig Wood in 1941, when he made three birdies en route to a three-stroke win over Nelson. Since then, only eight players have been 2 under par on the hole, including Nicklaus in 1986 and Schwartzel, who remains the only winner to birdie the last four holes in the final round, in 2011.


Hole No. 17, par 4, 440 yards, Nandina (above): The 17th is not a hole of wild swings. It’s the ninth toughest hole on Augusta National with an average score just .16 strokes above par. The difference between the best and worst scores on the hole is only five strokes (2 to 7), the smallest of any hole. The champions are just as clustered toward the center. Since World War II, 64 of 73 winners were between 1 over and 1 under on 17. The biggest outlier was Watson in 1981 (3 over par), who made bogey and a rare double en route to his second Masters victory. Schwartzel, in 2011, is the only winner this century to birdie the hole in the final round.

Hole No. 18, par 4, 465 yards, Holly: Augusta National’s closing hole – an uphill, dogleg right – has had its share of memories, most recently Garcia’s playoff birdie to win his first major title in 2017. Nineteen Masters champions have made birdie on the 72nd hole of the tournament, with six players winning by that one stroke and two (Mize in 1987 and Scott in 2013) eventually winning in a playoff. In 1959, Art Wall Jr., played the last six holes in 5 under par to win by one. Wall, Palmer, in 1960, and Mark O’Meara, in 1998, are the only single-stroke winners who made birdies on the tournament’s 71st and 72nd holes. The only champion to bogey the 71st and 72nd holes and still win was Woods in 2005. Woods’ mini-collapse (after his sensational birdie on 16) dropped him into a playoff with DiMarco, but Tiger made birdie on the 18th hole his second time around for his most recent Masters title.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

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Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

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McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.