Breaking Down the Masters, Hole-by-Hole: Nos. 1, 17, and 18

Leroy Watson Jr.Senior Writer IApril 9, 2009

Updated Sunday, April 12, 2009, 4:40 p.m. CDT


There is no other experience in all of sports quite like The Masters.


Unlike the other golf majors, the venue never changes. Those 18 holes at Augusta National have seen some of the greatest drama the sports world has ever known.


There was Arnold Palmer’s patented Sunday charge in 1960, finishing birdie-birdie to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, victimizing Ken Venturi.


Who among the many students of golf could ever forget Jack Nicklaus’ record-shattering performance in 1965? Carding a 271, he famously inspired none other than Bobby Jones to comment that young Nicklaus “plays a game with which I am not familiar."


Of course, it took no less a resplendent talent than Tiger Woods to break that record, by a single stroke, in 1997, while announcing with his overwhelming game that a new star shone brightly in the golf pantheon.


And we would be remiss to leave out the Golden Bear, Nicklaus, charging with a back-nine score of 30 in 1986, including an eagle-birdie-birdie rush on holes 15-17. A seemingly innocuous par on 18 set the bar for Greg Norman, who couldn’t match it.


Phil Mickelson cemented his legend as an all-time great by curling in an 18-foot putt to win his first Masters in 2004—one of only six men to ever win the prestigious tourney with a 72nd-hole birdie.


The common thread is always the final holes on Sunday. 17 and 18 at Augusta are, hands down, the finest and most famous closing holes on the PGA Tour and perhaps in all of world golf.


Hole No. 1


Sunday was very uneventful on the first hole. All of the major competitors, to a man, made par on  the opening hole.


How they did it, however, was a bit different.


Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods were in full scramble mode. Woods actually sprayed his drive onto the ninth hole. Both miraculously salvaged pars.


Angel Carbrera, as well, had his approach go astray. He, too, struggled for an up-and-down.


Kenny Perry, meanwhile, had a calm, routine par with a solid drive, routine approach and two-putt for par.


In other words, everyone managed to conquer one of the most difficult holes on the course and get their round off to decent starts.





Hole No. 17


Hole No. 17 has claimed it’s first victim: Tiger Woods.


Riding a huge wave of momentum, carding birdies at 13, 14, and 16, Tiger paid for an errant tee shot with a bogey on 17. Tiger had been making clutch putts—some from ridiculous lengths—all afternoon to score pars or birdies.


However, the diabolical 17th green drew him into its clutches. He misread his par putt and ground out a 6-footer coming back for bogey.


Kenny Perry came into No. 17 with a two-shot lead at 14-under par. Angel Cabrera and Chad Campbell trailed by two at twelve-under.


Campbell, playing in the next-to-last pairing, rifled his drive in the middle of the fairway. A poor approach, though, left him in the bunker protecting the left front of the green.


A brilliant sand shot left him with a safe three-footer for par.


Cabrera paired a perfect drive down the left side of the fairway with an excellent approach, a solidly lagged first putt and a two-footer for par.


Perry saw his bogey-less streak burst, however.


His drive skirted the trees on the right but bounded into the first cut of rough, rather than stay on the pine needles. His approach was even poorer than the drive; he found himself at the bottom of a mound near the fringe at the back of the green.


His chip attempt was the worst shot of the sequence. The ball rode up the hill, past the hole, and back down the slope, collecting near the front of the green. He two-putted for a bogey, slipping to 13-under par.


Heading to the tee at No. 18, Perry was leaking oil, Campbell was trying to create pressure in the pairing ahead, and Cabrera was flying under the radar, looking for an opening.







Hole No. 18


All of the suspense came to a head at No. 18.


Playing in the group in front of the leaders, Chad Campbell could do no better than par, leaving himself as the leader in the clubhouse at 12-under par 276.


Campbell ‘s drive on 18 was far from perfect, but an amazing approach left him with about a 20-footer for birdie. The putt slid by on the right and Campbell settled for his par.


Cabrera followed with a drive down the left side of the fairway. He chunked his approach but was still in decent condition on the right side of the fairway, just off the green, similar to the position that Chris DiMarco faced in 2005.


Perry drove into the first bunker, similar to where Mickelson was a short while earlier. He then totally mis-hit a 7-iron and found his ball just inches from the gallery, down a slope and in terrible position.


Being away, Perry chipped first and did a fine job, leaving himself about 16’ for par, which was miraculous considering his lie.


Cabrera then lagged his effort to about three feet away.


Perry just missed his par putt, and Cabrera made his, leaving them in a three-man playoff with Campbell for the Masters title.


Masters playoffs always begin on No. 18, so each man would have an opportunity to think of what they had done wrong—or right, as the case may be—on the penultimate hole on the course.


In an unprecedented move, officials had the putting surface of the 18th green pressed out to remove any spike marks before the playoff began.