2011 Masters: Top 10 Train Wrecks on Amen Corner
It’s understood that the Masters tournament doesn’t really begin until the Sunday leaders reach the back nine of Augusta National. And waiting for them is Amen Corner. This is where stars are born and dreams crumble. Any success over these treacherous holes is reason to breathe a sigh of relief, as you'll see later on in this article.
Arguably the most famous shot in any of the four Majors occurred at Amen Corner (11th hole). Larry Mize’s miraculous 45-foot chip to beat Greg Norman in a sudden-death playoff gave the unknown golfer the 1987 Masters title.
Nine years later, the Shark was back with a vengeance, as he took a six-stroke led over Nick Faldo. But a brutal run of holes--mainly on Amen Corner--doomed Norman to a final round 78,and dubbed the former No. 1 golfer in the world one of the all-time greatest choke artists in sports (just ahead of the 1982 California Angels).
Norman's not the only one that's stumbled over these holes. In 1978 Tommy Nakajima carded a 13 on the par 5 13th and the smooth swinging Tom Weiskopf carved out a bakers dozen on No.12. Both are records that nobody wants their name attached to.
On Thursday the Masters will get underway, and the anticipation of crowning a champion will culminate Sunday afternoon. Yet, if the history of the Masters tells us anything, we know Amen Corner will hold the keys to victory. What happens on 11, 12 and 13 should once again decide who dawns the Green Jacket.
With that in mind, here are the top 10 train wrecks of Amen Corner.
1996: Greg Norman
It’s been 15 years since Greg Norman’s epic collapse at Augusta. Norman (-12) came into the final round with a six-stroke lead over former Masters champion Nick Faldo, and the day played out like a “Greek Tragedy.”
Norman started leaking oil on nine, making a bogey five to drop to 11 under par. But things snowballed from there. The Shark racked up a slew of strokes on the next three holes, which included a double bogey on No. 12, Norman's tee shot came up short on the 155-yard hole and trickled in to Rae’s Creek, along with his chances of victory.
The two-time major winner began Amen Corner with a two-stroke lead on Faldo, and by the time a shell-shocked Norman reached the 14th tee, Faldo had turned the tables and was in command by two. Norman's final round 78 at Augusta was perhaps the greatest collapse in majors history.
1998: Fred Couples
Thirteen years ago one of the greatest three-man races in Masters tournament history took place on the back nine at Augusta.
Couples, the former 1992 champion was gunning for his second jacket. Boom-Boom was in a big time duel with David Duval, Mark O’Meara and Jim Furyk. Heck, even Jack Nicklaus was lurking. That’s how good this final round was.
Couples was solid on the front nine, going deep into red figures at nine under par. But when he reached No. 13, Duval was only a stroke back, and that’s when Freddie blew it. A double-bogey seven on the par 5 stole Couples’ momentum and opened the door for O’Meara. The unlikely Masters Champion sunk birdies at Nos. 17 and 18 to capture the green jacket.
1982: Johnny MIller
Miller is recognized more for his golf analysis on NBC then his play at Augusta. Nonetheless, the two-time major winner had incredible opportunities to become a Masters Champion.
The 1975 duel between Nicklaus, Weiskopf and Miller is the most famous of his 19 appearances at the Masters,and in that tournament, Miller closed with rounds of 65 and 66 to nearly catch the Golden Bear. Instead, he finished tied with Weiskopf for second-place.
Miller came up short again in ‘81, losing to Tom Watson by two strokes. 1982 was supposed to be Miller's time to shine, but instead of dazzling the golf world with another U.S. Open like-performance, he put together a trunk-slammer. Firing off two rounds in the 80s to miss the cut. The three-time Masters runner-up was five over par in his venture through Amen Corner.
1981: Jack Nicklaus
In the third round of the ’81 Masters, Nicklaus was 10 under par and cruising towards his sixth green jacket. But after bogeys on seven and nine, his three-shot lead over Tom Watson fell to a single stroke.
And when Nicklaus walked off the green at 12 with a double-bogey his round was teetering. Then on 13, the reachable Par 5, Nicklaus took a six and he was done. He limped home with a third-round 75 and ultimately lost the tournament to Watson.
2009: Phil Mickelson
Phil’s missed tee-shot on No. 12 not only led to a double-bogey, but at the end of the day, it prevented him from getting into a playoff with Kenny Perry, Chad Campbell and Angel Cabrera.
No question Mickelson has done worse at Augusta and the U.S. Open. However, considering how he pulled off that spectacular second shot (from behind the tree on 13) in last year's Masters, I’m kind of warming up to his go for broke style. I'd like to see him play it by the book for once, but I don’t think he can.
2002: Ernie Els
Tiger Woods’ final round 71 was good enough to defeat runner-up Retief Goosen and give Woods a third green jacket. However, lost in Tiger’s return to glory was the misguided attempt of Ernie Els to challenge Rae’s Creek on the last leg of Amen Corner.
Els was within striking distance of Woods, but he needed an eagle on No. 13 to keep the pressure on. His second shot was snared by a tree limb and found the creek below. The “Big Easy” walked away with a triple-bogey "snowman"en route to a final round 73.
1999: John Daly
The two-time major winner and “bad boy” of the PGA Tour has yet to be a serious contender at Augusta, Daly’s best effort was a third-place finish in1993.
With his length and deft touch around the greens, it’s still a mystery why Daly hasn’t made a bigger impact at the Masters. In 1999, Daly made the turn at five over par and still had a chance to make the cut. However, a costly six at No.11 and double-bogey on No. 13, left the fan favorite at nine over par and headed for home or perhaps the nearest Hooters?
1980: Tom Weiskopf
One of the most scrutinized players of the 1970s and early 80s. Tom Weiskopf was a four-time runner-up at the Masters, and some say he had the perfect swing to win at Augusta. That is until he went toe-to-toe with Golden Bell. The 155-yard par 3 presents one of the most feared shot's in golf, it's right up there with the island green at Sawgrass.
In Weiskopf’s opening-round of the 1980 Masters he carded a record-setting score of 13 on this hole. In this "Tin Cup" like moment, Weiskopf’s tee-shot found Rae's Creek, but the British Open champion took four more attempts at the green before he successfully landed his ball on the back fringe. And yes, Weiskopf went on to miss the cut.
1999: David Duval
From 1998 to 2001, Duval never finished worse than sixth at the Masters and had two runner-up finishes during this period. Yet, the former No. 1 player in the world and British Open champ could never get over the hump at Augusta.
In 1999 Jose-Maria Olazabal out-dueled Greg Norman and Davis Love III to capture his second Green Jacket. Duval—who finished five strokes back—charged to within a stroke of the lead and had the entire back nine to play. It looked to be "game-on" for Duval.
On the first leg of Amen Corner (11th) Duval drove his ball into the fairway of this 500 yard downhill par 4. But White Dogwood as they call it, is guarded by a pond on the left and has unpredictable crosswinds.
Duval’s second shot ended his run. From 200 yards out, he found the water and walked away with a double-bogey six. The former Georgia Tech star was able to card a final round 70, but his off target four iron derailed a Sunday charge.
1978: Tommy Nakajima
Gary Player’s brilliant final round 64 edged Tom Watson and two others by one stroke in the ’78 Masters. But the record that continues to live on is Tommy Nakajima’s 13 on No. 13.
The Japanese golfer pulled a Dwight D. Eisenhower, hitting everything but the intended target. Nakajima was also in contention at the 1978 Open at St. Andrews, until he famously putted his ball in the Road Hole bunker and took a quintuple bogey.