The companion short par-5s on the back nine of Augusta National
are like sisters in a fractured fairy tale. The 485-yard 13th is
pretty, popular and scrumptiously photogenic, but she has grown
tired of her goody-goody reputation and can now be sneaky cruel.
The other, the 500-yard 15th, was never taken seriously because
she was so easy, but she has turned distant and cold, and a lot
of people in the neighborhood don't like her very much. If
you're ever at the Masters, pay a call on the sisters, who live
at the far south end of the course. There you're bound to see a
lot of head-scratching cogitation between pro and caddie, a lot
of balls bathing in creek or pond, a few eagles, a few of the
dread "others" and maybe, just maybe, a green jacket won or lost.
Such was the case in Sunday's final round of the Masters. Tiger
Woods's last chance at a miracle finish ended with a soft thud
in the pine needles on the right side of number 13; his failure
to execute the requisite draw on his tee ball led to a
pedestrian par instead of a hard-driving eagle. It was at number
13, too, that an indecisive David Duval stood over a 197-yard
five-iron for so long that he probably iced himself. His second
shot found the creek, and after making bogey, Duval had lost two
strokes to eventual winner Vijay Singh. Finally, it was at
number 15 that Singh won the championship and likely a new batch
of admirers. The shot he would hit would be nowhere near as
stunning as the 235-yard four-wood that Gene Sarazen holed out
there in 1935--a double eagle that put the Masters on the
map--but it required just as much intestinal fortitude. Standing
on the left side of the fairway, about 210 yards from the pin
and about 200 from a ball-littered pond that to a lesser
competitor would've looked as big as an ocean, Singh pulled out
a four-iron. "Lay up?" said Singh later. "No, I never thought
about it." He carved a sweet draw around the trees and watched
it nestle softly on the green, about 20 feet past the pin.
Birdie. Game over.
Though Singh had the last laugh, number 15 had by that time
teased and tortured a slew of players. In last Saturday's
windblown third round, Nick Price, sitting three shots off the
pace at three under, sucked his third-shot wedge back off the
green and into the pond in front of the hole, saying hello to a
double-bogey 7, bye-bye to a chance at his first green jacket.
Under much more pleasant conditions in the second round, Tom
Lehman, who was leading the tournament at five under, came to 15
and decided to lay up, a decision that some considered wise,
others considered spineless, but in any event proved to be
fatal--his next shot also landed on the green, then spun back
and rolled into the water. The double bogey killed his momentum,
and Lehman finished sixth. The day before, Craig Stadler chunked
his third shot into the drink at 15, moved up 10 yards, changed
wedges and chunked it in there again. His quadruple-bogey 9
pushed him from -3 to +1, and after Stadler skied to a 77 on
Friday, the 2000 Masters was Walrus-less.
The allure of the sisters is that they present such wonderful
eagle opportunities, particularly the beloved 13th, which bears
the name Azalea, the flowered shrub synonymous with the Masters.
Thirteen has been the subject of as much rhapsodic prose as any
hole at Augusta. Alister MacKenzie, Augusta's architect, said
that 13 resembled a hypothetical "ideal hole." Frank Christian,
the official Masters photographer, calls it "a tempting and
ravenous beauty." Its features include the dogleg left that
requires a deft draw off the tee; the creek that runs down the
left side and then cuts in front of the green, putting drama in
the go-for-it second shot; and an 8,400-square-foot, two-tiered
green, Augusta's largest. Arnold Palmer numbered his eagle in
'58 at 13 (he hit a three-wood to the green) among his three
most memorable strokes at Augusta, and in 46 Masters, Arnie has
taken 10,514 of them.
For all that temptation, Saturday's third round yielded only one
eagle (by Bernhard Langer). Only 20 of the 31 players who tried
to hit their second over the creek made it; the 27 who laid up
included long hitters such as Singh, Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Hal
Sutton and Notah Begay. Of course, a horrible wind was blowing
into the players' faces. But so many strange things went on at
13, even during the first two rounds when the weather was
benign, that a few golfers may have developed triskaidekaphobia.
During the first round Woods said the wind was in his face when
he hit his tee shot and behind him when he hit his second; at
the last moment he changed from a six-iron to an eight and still
hit his ball over the green. During the first two rounds any
number of veterans, Singh, Els, Fred Couples and Nick Faldo
among them, hit superb drives, followed by inexplicably bad iron
shots that either went into the creek or didn't come close to
Besides the troublesome winds, Jeff Sluman finds the landing
area for the drive on 13 to be "very mysterious." There's a big
spot on the fairway where the grass is sparse and discourages
golfers from going for the green even when they have less than
200 yards. The subtle sidehill lies are also deterrents. Price
laid up from about 197 in Round 1, and Sluman was even more
timid, playing it safe from 187. A new pin placement on the back
right may have added to the number of balls hit into the creek
(12) on Thursday. But maybe not. On the second day, with the pin
in a more traditional front position, 15 golfers gave it a
rinse, three of them (Palmer, Ted Tryba and amateur Danny Green)
two times each. Two-time champion Seve Ballesteros found the
water only once but still made a 9.
The 15th bruised its share of players at this Masters too, and
not just Price, Lehman and Stadler. "That hole's been a real
rally killer" is the way third-place finisher Loren Roberts put
it. Sadistic fans had loads of fun watching golfers try to keep
the ball on the tabletop that masquerades as the 15th green.
Ballesteros, like Stadler, chili-dipped two balls into the pond
and made a 9, no doubt becoming the only two-time Masters
champion to take quads on both back-nine par-5s in the same
tournament. After Palmer hit his short approach well over the
green that same day, he glared at the measurement on a sprinkler
head, then glared at his caddie, as if his making such a
ham-handed shot were not possible. A variation on that theme was
recorded by Brian Watts and Miguel Angel Jimenez, both of whom
chipped too strongly from behind the green and watched in agony
as their shots rolled into the same water they had just
traversed. The real horror there was that the golfers then had
to trudge back across the Sarazen Bridge, take a drop and hit
over the water again.
It was at 15 in the first round that Els, whose threesome had
been put on the clock by an official, John Paramore, put a
rushed second shot into the pond and took a 7. Els, who later
called Paramore an idiot, a punishable offense in the
trash-talking NBA but not in the genteel PGA, lost the
tournament by only three strokes. Also at 15, on the second day
Sergio Garcia, angry that he had put a ball in the drink and was
about to make a tap-in bogey, slammed his wedge into the water,
splashing the first row of patrons in the grandstand.
But then, 15 has often been a source of peevishness. Shortly
after the course opened in 1933 members complained that at 465
yards, 15 was too easy to reach in two and requested that the
tee be moved back 15 yards. The engineer who built Augusta,
Wendell Miller, conveyed that opinion to Bobby Jones, whose
reply was summarized in Miller's notes as "Bob say no." Whatever
Bob say, go.
For decades the pros, playing the hole at 500 yards, blasted
their tee balls out to the right and ended up in easy
go-for-an-eagle range. Even in the early '60s, when titanium was
just something you learned about in college chemistry, Jack
Nicklaus could fly his second over the green with an eight-iron.
Leading in the final round of the '64 Masters, Palmer struck a
three-iron for his second shot at 15 and squinted into the late
afternoon sun. "Did it get over, Dave?" he asked playing partner
Dave Marr. "S---, Arnold," replied Marr, "your divot got over."
Eagles at 15 were routine, and going for the green in two became
so automatic that one of the most famous shots at 15 was one not
taken. Off the lead by three strokes in '93, Chip Beck didn't go
for a reachable green on his second shot and was roundly called
a coward and worse.
Last year the Masters committee planted a stand of trees on the
right side so that shots that once bounded merrily down the
slope now end up in jail. The result has been more weenie second
shots. Suddenly the pros were hitting a delicate third from a
downslope. And they were hitting it into a green with a safe
landing area of, oh, maybe 10 to 15 feet. In last year's second
round Duval, challenging for the lead, hit his third shot into
the water, his fifth over the back and was never in contention
again after a triple-bogey 8. During last Saturday's windblown
round, there were more layups at 15 than at a Princeton
basketball practice; only 12 players went for the green in two.
This year Duval hit a sweet second into the 15th, but Singh,
hitting after him, trumped him with that gorgeous,
I'm-no-Chip-Beck four-iron. The best way to beat 13 and 15,
Singh showed, is to stare 'em down and never blink. But
remember: The sisters have a whole lot of time to plot and
scheme and figure out how to mess things up next year.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT BECK ALL WET Duval effectively lost the Masters when his Sunday bid for eagle on 13 came up short.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER A SLIPPERY SLOPE The treacheries at 15 include downhill lies and a beckoning pond.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER UP THE CREEK Paul Azinger made an unhappy splash at 13 but was able to chip his ball out of Rae's Creek and get his par.
COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN VIEW TO A KILLER An overhead view of 13 shows all the ways a golfer can be hurt.
A measure of the importance of the 13th and 15th holes at the
Masters lies in the fact that among the players who went the
lowest on those two par-5s last week were six of the top 10
finishers (in yellow, below).
Tiger Woods -6
Bernhard Langer -6
Phil Mickelson -5
Jim Furyk -5
Jean Van de Velde -5
Vijay Singh -4
David Duval -4
Carlos Franco -4
Hal Sutton -4
Five others tied at -4