(Updated at 8:00 PM EDT on Sunday, Apr. 12)
Over the course of the Masters Tournament, we'll be providing an update on holes two, three and four at Augusta National. We'll be focusing on strategy, how changing conditions affect the playability of the holes and how the leading contenders are making there way through this crucial, if sometimes overlooked, stretch.
Check back often for updates throughout the weekend.
Augusta National has many famous holes, particularly those located on the back nine that have been burned into the minds of golf fans during 50 years of network television coverage.
The lesser known holes on Augusta's front side are just as magnificent and are just now becoming more recognizable to the golf masses due to expanded TV coverage over the past decade.
Three of those great but often overlooked holes are Nos. 2, 3, and 4—a long but reachable par-five, a classic shot par-four of 350 yards and one of the toughest par-threes in major championship golf
While it's probably true that the Masters Tournament has never been won on holes two, three, and four at Augusta National, it's probably safe to say that the championship has been lost a time or two on these three architectural gems.
Final Round Highlights
Although holes two, three and four didn't play a part in the dramatic sudden-death playoff that crowned Argentina's Angel Cabrera as the 2009 Masters' champion, there was still plenty of interesting action on the three early holes that got the thousands of Augusta patrons and the millions of TV viewers very excited.
Hole #2, Pink Dogwood, the 575-yard par-5, ranked as the 16th most difficult hole on Sunday, averaging 4.680. The hole yielded an eagle and 16 birdies, and only 2 bogies. Overall the hole ranked 16th hardest for the entire tournament.
The 350-yard 3rd hole played a little tougher, allowing only 10 birdies, but inflicting seven bogies among the 50 players who played on Sunday. It finished as the 14th most difficult hole on the day (3.940 stroke average) and 13th for the week.
After almost being benign on days two and three, the 240-yard Par-3 fourth was once again a real test on Sunday, as it ranked third in terms of difficulty, averaging more than a quarter of a stroke over par (3.260). There were only 4 birdies all day compared to 10 bogies, two double bogies and one other. Flowering Crab Apple finished the week as the 6th most difficult hole.
The three playoff participants had a relatively uneventful trip through holes two, three and four on Sunday, as Chad Campbell, Kenny Perry and winner Angel Cabrera all played the three hole stretch even par. Campbell and Perry made three pars, while Cabrera birdied three and bogied four.
Other contenders made more noise on the holes. Phil Mickelson, on his way to a front nine 30, made birdies at two and three to increasingly loud roars from the patrons. American Steve Flesh went one better, recording three consecutive threes at two, three and four on his way to a final round 67 and a tiedfor sixth.
The strtech wasn't kind to everyone, however. South African Rory Sabbatini, who entered the final round at -6, just five of the lead, saw his chances all but end with bogies on two and four on his way to a disappointing final round 76.
Third Round Highlights
The leaders navigated holes two, three and four successfully on Saturday, but a miss-step by one of the pre-tournament favorites on the par-five second may have ended any chance at one of the greatest achievements in golf history.
Overall, the three holes all played easier than they did on Friday despite pin locations that would have to be described as more difficult on thee and four. The difference—almost perfect scoring conditions.
Augusta was blessed with sunny skies, warm temperatures and a lot less wind than the players had to deal with in round two.
The 575-yard par-five second hole ranked as the 17th most difficult during Saturday's action, with an average of 4.660. Fifty percent of the 50 players who made the cut made birdie, with only two bogies, one double and one unexpected other.
The third hole, the 350-yard par-4 known as Flowering Peach, also played easier in round three, averaging an even 4.000 strokes to rank 10th hardest. But it was still one of the hardest holes on the course to birdie, with only six of the 50 players managing a score under par.
The dramatic change was the 240-yard par-three fourth, which ranked as the most difficult hole on day one, but only ranked 13th in scoring average on Saturday. And for the first time the hole averaged under par at 2.860.
Almost 25 percent of the field birdied Flowering Crab Apple, and only four (three bogies and one double) had a score over par.
The leaders came through the stretch relatively unscathed, led by current co-leader Kenny Perry who recorded birdies at two and four.
Thirty-six-hole co-leader Chad Campbell birdied the second to improve his cumulative score to six under for the three holes through three rounds. The other current members of the top five—Angel Cabrera, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker—all played the three holes one under par, with a birdie and two pars.
Others who made a move on the early holes to post a solid score included lefty Steve Flesch who birdied two and four on the way to a solid 68, tied for the best score of the day.
But perhaps the biggest contribution that holes two through four made on day three was the quadruple bogie nine made by Padraig Harrington on the second hole, effectively putting to an end the dream of the "Paddy Slam."
Harrington rallied for a one-over par 73, but finds himself ten shots back with only 18 holes to play.
Hole No. 2 - Third Round Pin Placement and Early Saturday Action
With less severe wind conditions forecast and a slightly easier pin placement, the 575-yard par-five second hole may return to must-birdie status for round No. 3.
Saturday's pin is in the middle-back of the green, making it a little more accessible and making the two deep greenside bunkers, less of a factor.
In early Saturday play, there have been five birdies through 14 players, but also two bogies (Dudley Hart and Paul Casey) and one double (D.J. Trahan), showing the leaders that the hole can be had, but care is still required.
Hole No. 3 - Third Round Pin Placement and Early Saturday Action
With a difficult front right hole location on the par-four third on Saturday, most players will be happy to mark a four on their scorecard and move quickly to the next tee.
Look for most players to lay-up with irons off the tee, looking for the premium yardage that will allow them to spin the ball and get it close as possible to the pin.
Englishmen Justin Rose and Ross Fisher made the only two birdies on the third through 14 players on Saturday, but countrymen Luke Donald (double bogie) and Robert Allenby (bogie) weren't as fortunate.
Hole No. 4 - Third Round Pin Placement and Early Saturday Action
With a difficult pin placement protected by the right green side bunker, look for players to treat the par-three fourth with a lot of respect during Saturday's third round. Shots aimed at the middle of the green will be the norm as most players will be content with a long birdie putt rather than risk potential disaster.
So far players are playing the fourth conservatively, with two birdies (Steve Flesch and D.J. Trahan) and 10 pars through the first 12 players.
It will be interesting to see if the leaders or those just off the first page of the leaderboard are able to resist the urge to do a little flag hunting on the super-tough 240 yard hole.
Second Round Highlights
As predicted, the combination of tougher pin locations and the swirling Augusta wins made holes two and three a little more difficult on day two, while a much more accessible flag on the par-three fourth yielded more than triple the number of birdies that the 240-yard challenge allowed on Thursday.
The 575-yard par-five Second, Pink Dogwood, surrendered two eagles and 25 birdies on Friday but also exacted some revenge from the field with 11 bogies and a double by Canadian Mike Weir.
The stroke average rose from 4.54 during round one to 4.83 on Friday, to rank as the fourth easiest hole.
A relatively easy pin allowed the field to take advantage of the 350-yard par-four third during round one, as the field averaged well under par. The story was a little different on Friday as the number of birdies made on Flowering Peach was cut in half (29 to 14), while the number of bogies tripled to 21 for a stroke average of 4.11. It ranked 13th in difficulty.
The Fourth was a little more forgiving compared to the hole the players faced on Thursday, that surrendered only four birdies and ranked first in difficulty. Fourteen players recorded twos on Flowering Crab Apple on Friday and the average score fell from 3.36 to 3.16.
Still a challenge, but just one of several tough holes on the course during round two action, as it ranked only 10th hardest.
Tournament co-leader Chad Campbell continued his amazing run on holes two, three and four on Friday, picking up birdies on two and four and improving to an incredible five under on the three hole stretch for the week.
Others were less fortunate, and a few of the main contenders will be wondering how much closer that could have been entering the third round if they'd successfully managed this tough stretch.
Among those who'd love to play these holes over include Tim Clark, who sits solo fifth after 36-holes at five under, despite bogies at three and four on Friday. Hunter Mahan made birdie on No. 1, to get to seven under before going six-six on holes two and three. He finished at three under after a 75 but could have been so much closer.
Even former Masters champion Mike Weir wasn't immune as a double bogie on two and a bogie on three knocked him from the first page of the leaderboard. He sits eight shots back at one under, mostly due to his poor showing on the starting holes.
Hole No. 2 - Second Round Pin Placement and Early Action
Judging by the Friday pin placement on Pink Dogwood, the Masters Committee may be looking to exact a little revenge after Thursday's birdie fest, that saw the Masters field turn the 575-yard par five into little more than a difficult par four.
For Friday's round the hole location has been moved to the left-hand corner of the large green, well protected by one of the two huge greenside bunkers and forcing players to be careful not to short-side themselves by going a little too far left. Expect less birdies than during day one.
In early action on day two, the second hole is already showing more teeth. Through 33 players, there have only been 11 birdies and already six bogies—two more than the entire day one total.
Among the leaders who have struggled on the second in early play include, Sean O'Hair, Todd Hamilton and Hunter Mahan, who birdied the tough first hole to get to seven under, only to give it back with a birdie on No. 2.
Hole No. 3 - Second Round Pin Placement and Early Action
Like No. 2, the hole location on the 350-yard third for Friday's second round is in a much more challenging location. It, too, has been moved to the far left hand corner of the green, leaving only a sliver of the putting surface for the Masters' contenders to try and reach with their second shots.
Friday's placement also brings the only greenside bunker that guards the third green into play.
Through 30 golfers on day two, the hole is actually playing slightly over par, with five birdies, four bogies, and the first double bogey of the championship on number three by Hunter Mahan. That's a big difference from Thursday when the hole played a quarter of a stroke under par.
Among those finding success on Flowering Peach during day two action are 50-year old Larry Mize, who continues to stay in contention and Sean O'Hair, who rebounded from his disappointing bogie at two, with birdie at three to get back to four under.
Hole No. 4 - Second Round Pin Placement and Early Action
The pin placement on the tough par-three fourth is a little more accessible today, but also brings the two deep bunkers that guard both sides of the green more into play. The pin is cut in the very front of the green, making the hole play a little shorter, but not necessarily easier.
So far on Friday, there's been a few more birdies with five through the first 30 players, but also still a lot of bogies with nine scores over par with less than a third of the field completing play.
Among the leaders who manged to make a move on number two during the early going are John Merrick who moved to six under with his second birdie in three holes at Flowering Crab Apple, and leader Chad Campbell, who amazingly birdied the 240- yard test for the second consecutive day to get to nine under and extend his lead to three.
Those with less success include Aaron Baddeley and Andres Romero, who both bogied number four to fall farther back of Campbell.
First Round Highlights
And judging from first round results, that trend will continue in 2009.
Perfect scoring conditions made two and three birdie holes on day one. The Par-five second ranked as the easiest hole on the course averaging nearly a half stroke under par at 4.5417.
Among the 96 players in the field there were two eagles (Stephen Ames and Nick Watney) and 44 birdies and only four bogies.
The third was also a green light special during the opening round, finishing as the fourth easiest holes, allowing 29 birdies and only seven scores over par.
Even with ideal conditions the par-three fourth was still a monster, ranking first in difficulty with an average score of more than a third of a stroke over par (3.3646). Only four men—Richard Sterne, Stewart Cink, Andres Romero and Chad Campbell—managed a two on the 240 yard monster.
Campbell, the current co-leader after a fine seven-under par 65, took advantage of the stretch as well as anyone, making two, three and four the middle frames of a tournament record five consecutive birdies to open the championship.
Others weren't as lucky and even two names close to the top of the leader-board, Nick Watney and Kevin Sutherland, would probably like a do over. The pair bogied both three and four despite opening with three-under par 69's.
Overview - How Holes 2, 3, and 4 Play
Hole No. 2
Coming off the challenging first hole, the 575 yard par-five second, called Pink Dogwood, is one of the few holes at Augusta National where you feel you are losing shots to the field if you don't make birdie.
Reachable in two with solid shots by the longer hitters, the only real hazard off the tee is a solitary fairway bunker at the elbow of the slight right-to-left dogleg. Players looking for a chance at an eagle will have to play a slight draw and favor the left side of the fairway.
Of course, any attempt for the green brings the too-deep bunkers that guard both sides of the saddle-shaped putting surface into play.
Players not attempting to reach in two will lay up somewhere between 80 to 95 yards, paying special attention to the pin position to get the best angle to the well-guarded green.
Hitting your second too close is a no-no as well, since a couple of shelves and slopes make it necessary to get some spin on the ball to get a good birdie opportunity.
In 2008, the hole ranked as the third easiest hole with two eagles and 89 birdies compared to only 37 bogeys or worse. A birdie here gives you a quick jump on the field, but a bogey could be a sign of impending disaster.
Hole No. 3
Hole number three, Flowering Peach, is a classic risk/reward short par four that can yield birdies, but also big numbers if a player gets too greedy. Just ask Tiger Woods.
At 350 yards, the hole can be played two completely different ways depending on the pin location and situation. When the pin is located in the front right, an iron or fairway wood leaves a short iron approach to the shallow green.
Getting the proper amount of spin here is crucial, as only 11 paces separate front from back on the right side.
If the pin is anywhere in the back, many players will use a driver or three wood to get the ball as close to the green as possible, leaving a short but challenging pitch with a lob wedge. Right is the only safe miss on this hole as left, short, and long are all dead.
Number three ranked 14th in difficulty in 2008, yielding 44 birdies, offset by 44 bogeys and four doubles. An inviting-looking hole from the tee, but definitely one to handle with care.
Hole No. 4
If par is a good score on number three, it's a major achievement on the difficult par three fourth hole, known to the members as Flowering Crab Apple, a fitting name for a hole that can sometimes leave a bad taste in a player's mouth.
The pros will be using a long-iron or hybrid club off the tee and anyone who claims to be aiming anywhere but the middle of the green is probably not telling the truth.
The green is well-protected by two large bunkers, which seem to swallow up miss-hit shots. Long isn't any more attractive and a bogey would be considered a good score if you hit it long.
Even if you're lucky enough to hit the green, you better make sure you are on the right side of the putting surface as a ridge bisects the green. Miss the ridge and two-putting is a chore on the slippery, sloping green.
Number four ranked as the fifth most difficult hole in 2008, surrendering only 17 birdies compared to 76 bogies and three doubles. Mark four threes on your card for the week and any Masters contestant will leave this tough, short hole a very happy man.
Holes two, three, and four at Augusta National may not be among the most well-known on the world's most famous course, but they often have as much to say about determining the eventual champion as any.