The dramas have been well documented. From Gene Sarazen’s double eagle at No. 15 to Phil Mickelson’s birdie putt at No. 18 to famous charges and the prayers – answered and unfulfilled – at Amen Corner, Augusta National often delivers an epic finish.
But the Masters Tournament, or so the saying goes, truly begins on the second nine on Sunday.
At the turn.
At No. 10.
It might be overlooked, what with the storied eight holes that follow, but the 10th stands alone as the toughest in Tournament history with a 4.31 stroke average.
And it’s where the Masters has ended in playoffs three of the past five years – including the last two – again the scene of shots and moments etched in Augusta National lore.
“I'm sure every time I play the 10th, I won't be able to help but think back to late that Sunday afternoon,” said Adam Scott, who prevailed there last year to become the first Australian to don the Green Jacket.
Scott’s duel with Angel Cabrera included a poignant gesture as the two players strode down the 10th fairway after hitting their approach shots. Cabrera had found the green, but faced a lengthy putt. Scott responded by knocking his shot to 15 feet.
Cabrera then pointed toward Scott, smiled and nodded his head, acknowledging how the Australian had risen to the occasion. Scott sank the birdie putt to join Cabrera as a Masters champion.
“I was congratulating him because he hit a great shot. Even after I hit a good shot, and given the time and moment, I wanted to congratulate him,” Cabrera said.
For Cabrera, it was the second time a Masters had reached a crescendo at No. 10. In 2009, he won a playoff there with a two-putt par to beat Kenny Perry’s bogey and become the first Argentinean to win a Masters.
That was a fairly routine victory, though, compared to Bubba Watson’s hook shot from the right trees in 2012. Watson, a left-hander, ripped a 162-yard wedge that he curved 40 yards or so onto the green, setting up a par that beat Louis Oosthuizen.
Nick Faldo vividly recalls standing just off the 10th green 25 years ago as Scott Hoch looked to tap in a 2-footer to win the Masters. “I remember saying to myself, ‘I could still win this.’ It didn’t look good, but I could still win this,” Faldo said.
Hoch was above the hole, where he had marked his ball and allowed Faldo to finish up with a bogey. It was a move that Faldo believes might have cost Hoch the Tournament.
“That green has an amazing amount of break,” Faldo said. “Even from the middle of the green, you could have a 40-foot putt with 20 feet of break.”
Hoch missed the putt, and Faldo won the playoff with a birdie at No. 11, capturing the first of his three Masters titles.
The 10th hole originally was never intended to be the scene of such drama. It was designed as No. 1 but took its place in history when the nines were switched in 1935, three years after Augusta National opened, largely because early morning frost in the fairway valley delayed morning membership play.
The green was at first located directly behind the large fairway bunker, but it was pushed back to its current spot in 1937. The bunker to the right of the green was enlarged in 1968, and the tee boxes were shifted around, but the hole has seen relatively minor changes since. The hole displays the significant drop in elevation from the area surrounding the clubhouse down to Amen Corner.
“It’s a great hole. You don’t see 30-yard drops from tee to green too often in major championship golf anymore,” said Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters champion. “The players don’t overlook it. You’ve got to try and stay as focused as you can.”
The tee shot alone can often determine the mindset for heading into the second nine.
“You have to make a par there,” Cabrera said. “You can really hurt yourself if you mess up No. 10.”
Rory McIlroy did just that in 2011. Trying to clear the slope and reach the bottom of the fairway, McIlroy hit his drive so far left in 2011 that his ball came to rest near the cabins. He made triple-bogey 7 en route to shooting 80 that Sunday.
“If you hit the draw, you get rewarded. If you don’t, you stay up on top of the hill and lose 30 yards of roll,” Faldo said. “It could be a difference between a 3-iron or 6- or 7-iron if you don’t reach the slope. It’s a huge difference.”