Road to the Masters 2012
Five crucial shots to hit at MastersAs the only major played every year on the same course, the Masters has the best-known 18 holes in major championship golf. Even through the changes over the years at Augusta National Golf Club, players know many of the shots they will have to hit long before they set foot on the Alister MacKenzie masterpiece. They don't learn the undulations of the greens and the intricacies of the course until they have been around the place a few times, but they have seen countless times on TV their favorite childhood player hit an 8-iron into the 12th hole or the drive up the first fairway. Since the 1935 Masters, when Gene Sarazen holed out from 225 yards on the 15th fairway with a 4-wood for double-eagle, the world's most famous golf tournament has produced some of the game's most memorable shots. Who can forget Tiger Woods' dramatic 25-foot chip-in from off the green at the 16th hole to that winding and slippery left Sunday pin placement at the 2005 Masters? One of the special aspects of the Masters is that year after year players are confronted with the subtle wind changes at the short par-3 12th and the dilemma of going for the green in 2 at the par-5 15th hole or laying up with their second shots. The drive and second shot at the par-5 13th are two of the most well-known shots in golf. You can make eagle or double-bogey at the hole, lifting or sinking your fortunes on Sunday. Players are often remembered for the shots that they didn't hit on one of the two par-5s on the back nine. Zach Johnson is remembered as the Masters champion who laid up on all 16 par-5s for the week en route to his 2007 win. And Chip Beck is probably unfortunately remembered for not going for the green in 2 at the 15th in 1993, when he needed to make up 3 shots in the final round to catch the eventual winner, Bernhard Langer. More than anything, Augusta National is an endless archive of golf shots. These swings never look old, because the dramatic unfolding of the tournament on Sunday afternoon always rewards new situations and fascinating storylines. These are just a handful of some shots that have over the years continued to capture the attention of the best players in the world. The tee shot at the par-4, 495-yard 10th hole
No. 10 is generally one of the most difficult holes on the golf course because of the drive, which requires a long hook for a right-handed player to get around the dogleg to an uneven lie in the fairway. Players who take the safer route and hit their tee shots out to the right are faced with a long second shot. But if you hit it too far left, you will have tree problems. Last year, Rory McIlroy hooked his tee shot into the trees at the 10th and made triple-bogey. He had been the leader of the tournament for 63 holes, but after that 125-yard duck hook that landed near a couple of Masters cabins, he never had a piece of the lead again on his way to an 8-over-par 80. The second shot at the par-5, 530-yard 15th hole
On paper it looks like an easy birdie hole, but then you hit your drive and you are faced with a slight downhill shot off a very thin lie. You have to hit a high, soft shot to hold this shallow green. If you don't hit it perfectly, it could end up in the pond fronting the green or it could spin off the front. If you miss long, there is a collection area behind the green where you have to chip it downhill toward the water. Even if you decide to lay up, a third-shot wedge off the tight lies has to be struck perfectly with the right trajectory and precise distance and spin. Probably the thing that people remember most about the 1986 Masters, after Jack Nicklaus' back-nine 30 on Sunday to win his sixth green jacket, was the late Seve Ballesteros hitting his 4-iron second shot into the water off an awkward lie at the 15th to eventually lose the lead to Nicklaus. The approach shot at the 505-yard, par-4 11th hole
It's 505 yards. So you have to hit a pretty long tee shot, but then you're looking at a mid-to-long iron for your approach from an uneven lie into a green that is guarded to the left by water and a bunker on the right. The bailout to the right leaves you with a long, fast downhill chip back across to a green backed by water. No one gets close to this pin on Sunday. Last year on Sunday at the 11th, Adam Scott made a 30-foot birdie putt that got him to 10 under par for the tournament and, for a while, into a four-way tie for the lead. In 1987, Larry Mize made a 140-foot chip from off the 11th green to beat Greg Norman in a sudden-death playoff. The tee shot at the par-3, 155-yard 12th hole
It's the hardest short-iron shot in the world to a green that's only 26 yards deep. The only smaller green on the golf course is the 15th, which is 24 yards deep. Rae's Creek runs in the front of a putting surface that is guarded in the front and back by deep bunkers. Last year, this tee shot killed Luke Donald's chances of winning his first major championship. The Englishman made a double-bogey at the 12th after hitting his 9-iron into Rae's Creek. He would finish 4 shots back of Charl Schwartzel, in a tie for fourth. In 1992, Fred Couples got the biggest break of his career when his tee shot, which barely cleared Rae's Creek, miraculously stayed on the bank, instead of rolling back into the water like every other shot that had landed short. Couples went on to save par and beat Raymond Floyd by 2 shots. The approach shot at the par-4, 460-yard ninth hole
One of the cruelest images from Norman's blown 6-shot lead in the final round at the 1996 Masters came at the ninth. The Shark's lead over Nick Faldo had shrunk to 3 shots coming into the hole. Norman's ball was spinning out of control that day. At No. 9, the best of approach shots to the elevated green could land near the hole and spin back 25 to 50 yards into the fairway off the false front. The green at the ninth hole slopes from back to front with two bunkers to the left of the green. Norman didn't hit a horrible shot, but he didn't carry it far enough and it spun back off down the hill. That shot would be a sign of worse things to come for him on the back nine.
Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at email@example.com.