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Rory's waterloo

3/29/2012 - Golf Rory McIlroy

Pull the string on Jim Nantz's back and they're the first words that come out: "The Masters does not begin until the back nine on Sunday." But exactly where on those final holes is the green jacket won and lost? We analyzed the Masters scorecards of this year's three favorites -- Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson -- and found the most crucial holes for each man lie back-to-back-to-back, right where the old cliché said they'd be. The Masters does begin on the back nine on Sunday -- and as we're about to show, it often ends there too.

10th HOLE
PAR 4, 495 YARDS

Augusta National opened in 1932, but nobody can recall ever seeing a tee shot end up where Rory McIlroy's did last April -- in front of two cabins in the woods. His drive had hooked and rattled off a tree just 125 yards from the tee, and six shots and one triple bogey later, McIlroy's one-shot lead was a two-shot deficit. He was on his way to a round of 80. When McIlroy, now the world's No. 1, steps to the 10th tee, will he think about how he's never birdied the hole? Or that he's played it 6-over in only 10 rounds? Or will he just think of not hitting it (again) where no one has before?

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