AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s the heart of Amen Corner, the place where swirling winds and towering pines can play tricks on even the most talented players. And Sunday, the 12th hole at Augusta National went a long way toward deciding the winner of the 83rd Masters.
Measuring just 155 yards, the 12th played as one of the easier holes through the first three rounds. But thanks in large part to the struggles of the leaders down the stretch, it played to a 3.34 average during the final round, making it the hardest hole of the course.
Four of the final six players to face the shortest hole on the course found the water, starting with Ian Poulter and Brooks Koepka in the penultimate group. Koepka strode to the tee tied for second and two shots behind Francesco Molinari, but he left with a double bogey that seemingly put his title chances on life support.
“I knew it was slightly in (to the wind) and then all of a sudden it’s down (wind), but we all know that hole, the wind direction changes by the second, and you could see mine just floated a little in the wind,” Koepka said. “It’s just once it gets above those trees, it’s a guessing game.”
Tony Finau followed in the final group and found the same result, but not before Molinari himself put one in the drink despite holding a two-shot lead. The Italian made only two bogeys through his first 64 holes but left with a costly double bogey after his “chippy” 8-iron came up well short.
“Just a bad execution. I think we picked the right shot and just didn’t hit it hard enough, simple as that,” Molinari said. “I think I just had a couple of mental lapses on the back nine that were costly. But it is what it is.”
Tiger Woods was tied for second heading to 12, but after safely finding the green with a 9-iron and two-putting for par from more than 40 feet, he walked to 13 with a share of the lead that he would never again relinquish.
“When I was up there on the tee box and it was about my turn to go, I could feel that wind puff up a little bit,” Woods said. “I knew my 9-iron couldn’t cover the flag, so I had to play left. And I said, ‘Just be committed, hit it over that tongue in that bunker. Let’s get out of here and let’s go handle the par-5s,’ and I did.”