The Hallelujah stretch
Augusta's holes 13 through 16 are the make-or-break stretch
This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's April 15 Photo Issue. Subscribe today!
FIFTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, some dusty old golf scribe dubbed holes 11 through 13 at Augusta National "Amen Corner." Ever since, a myth has persisted that it's where the Masters is won and lost. But when we dug deep into the data on all 18, we found the truth: 13 through 16 is the make-or-break stretch. Last year's winner, Bubba Watson, birdied all four holes on Sunday by attacking the pins with a mind-bending array of approach shots. And of the past 25 Masters champs, 23 played those holes under par on Sunday. (The past 25 winners at Amen Corner? Thirteen under par, 12 at or above par.) "The beauty of those four holes," says ESPN analyst Curtis Strange, "is you can catapult into contention in the matter of an hour." Here, shot shaper Watson tells us how he rained red numbers from on high -- and our pros reveal how the field will seek birdies come April 11.
Hole 13, approach view
1. Bubba Watson
"When you're on this hole, you're always seeing disaster. There's water, there's trouble, and you have to hit the approach off this side-hill lie. You can't really see how much the fairway slopes on TV. But on Sunday, it was a perfect fit for me. I hit a 9-iron draw from about 175 in there about 30 feet. And that's all you're trying to do -- hit to the center of the green, two-putt and get out of there with a birdie."
Teddy Scott, Watson's caddie
"With the ball below his feet, it's hard for Bubba to curve it left to right. But that's the neat thing: He's so good at working the ball, he's comfortable drawing it here."
"You're not gonna start the ball anywhere near the water. Aiming at the middle of the green gives you some room for error. If anybody flies it anywhere near the flag, it's a mistake."
Hole 13, target view
1. Paul Azinger, ESPN analyst
"If you're over the green, you're hoping to be in the sand. This grassy patch is way below the putting surface; you can make 6 or 7 from there if you're not careful."
2. Curtis Strange, ESPN analyst
"This is the hardest pin location on the green. Long is dead, so you'll see players come up short because it's such a steep slope."
"This is one of the most demanding second shots in golf. The green welcomes a left-to-right shot because there's a ridge down the middle that funnels the ball down to the right."
Hole 14, approach view
1. Bubba Watson
"I knew from watching the Masters in the past that there's a huge slope behind the hole that'll spin the ball back to the pin. The only problem when you aim at slopes: If you mishit it, it's gonna miss the slope and then you're in real trouble. I only like to aim there when I'm hitting short irons because I don't try to curve them as much. Those are kinda straightforward -- well, straightforward for me, I guess."
"He had 116 to the pin -- not including the uphill -- and there was probably 10 to 12 yards behind the pin to land it. His normal sand wedge is 125, so when it landed, we were like, 'Oh my god, this is perfect.'"
"Righthanders don't want to come in with a draw. You'll see guys start the ball three or four paces left of the hole and try to hold it off, because you don't want to miss right."
Hole 14, target view
"The most radical green west of St. Andrews is protected by a huge swale that funnels the ball off the front. If you miss short, you're likely facing a putt over 10 feet to save par."
"This is the easiest hole location because you can hit it to the center of the green, and with the slope it'll feed down to the hole."
"This is the hardest pin location. It's a flat spot, but to the right of it is a slope that takes the ball away from the hole."
Hole 15, approach view
1. Bubba Watson
"I got behind those trees on the left a few times last year, and I had to slice it 50, 60 yards. But during the final round Sunday, I didn't have that problem. I bombed my drive down the middle and had only 198 to the hole -- a little cut 7-iron. I hit it in there about 20 feet for eagle. The pin is usually back right, just over that shelf. I'm just trying to fly it right at the hole. You don't want to bring the short trouble into play."
"It's downhill probably five to 10 yards, so this shot is more about distance control than it is about accuracy. You can hit it almost anywhere on the green and have a not-too-difficult two-putt for birdie."
"You want a straight shot; you're just trying to hit the ball solidly. A lot of guys will tug it a little left and long. Long is a whole lot better than short."
Hole 15, target view
"When the pin is here, you have to fly your second shot the perfect distance. Two yards short, you're in the water. Two yards long, it's over the green."
"It's a forced carry, not just over the pond but a good four to five yards into the green -- or else the ball can back up into the water."
"Oftentimes, the bunker is a player's target. If they're uncomfortable with their yardage, a lot of guys will bail out here."
Hole 16, approach view
1. Bubba Watson
"Your adrenaline -- you can get excited on 16. My target was that back bunker, and I just tried to cut it about 30 to 40 feet off that. Teddy and I have always talked about trying to get it up on the slope so it rolls back and goes in the hole. But I've never been able to get it back there in my four years playing Augusta. On Sunday it was the perfect distance, and I hit it about eight to 10 feet below the hole."
"The wind completely stopped when we were standing on the tee. It was 180 yards to the pin, which is a perfect 8-iron for Bubba. It just set up so good. As soon as the shot left, I knew it was going to be awesome."
"The ideal shot to envision in your mind is a straight one. You don't want to aim it too far to the right, because if you don't bring it back, you're gonna make bogey."
Hole 16, target view
"On Sunday you know standing on the tee that the water doesn't really come into play. Your shot is to the middle of the green to catch the slope."
"This is the hardest hole location on the green. You'll see a lot of guys tug it just a hair to the left because they know how tough the back bunker is."
"If you miss here, you're going to pay a big price. You'll probably drop a shot. It's the absolute worst place you could be on Sunday."
MORE GOLF HEADLINES
- McIlroy completes wire-to-wire win at Open
- Dick's Sporting Goods fires in-store golf pros
- McIlroy's father cashes in on son's Open title
- Tiger eyes Ryder despite worst major finish
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
ESPN The Magazine: April 15, 2013