Green Jacket Confidential: Masters champions Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd and Billy Casper join our roundtable

Augusta National 12th Hole
Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated
The par-3 12th hole got the most votes for favorite hole at Augusta National from our Masters champions roundtable.

 

5. What's your favorite hole at Augusta National?

Palmer: I enjoy Augusta period. I like all the holes, and I’m a big fan of the Masters.

Casper: With the conditions at Augusta, every hole changes. With what has transpired down through the years, it’s hard to single out any one hole. Probably the neatest hole is No. 12, the par 3 over Rae’s Creek. So many different things that have gone on there at that hole like Couples’ ball rolling back and not going into the water [in 1992] and Palmer burying the ball in the face of the bunker in the mud and getting to drop on top of the trap. Claude Harmon holed the ball for a 1 [in 1947], and Hogan hit it about five feet by and holed the putt for 2. Not a word was ever spoken between them about the hole-in-one. Finally Hogan said something as they were arriving on the 13th fairway: “That’s the first time I birdied that hole in almost seven years.” Until their dying days, they never acknowledged the hole-in-one that Claude Harmon made. It’s a funny story. So much can happen down in that little hole with the way the wind billows in over the trees from Augusta Country Club. The wind comes up the valley from the left, then right down No. 13. One year my caddie told me it was a 7-iron: “Hit that 7-iron, in 20-30 seconds, it will be different.”

Schwartzel: I’m not sure that I love one hole more than another, but I do have a favorite stretch and that’s 15 through 18 because I birdied each one in the last round when I won in 2011.

Cabrera: The 155 yard par-3 12th

Player: The start of Amen Corner, the par-4 11th hole White Dogwood, is probably my favorite at Augusta.  The whole of Amen Corner is a beautiful, yet very challenging, part of the course. I always thought the short 16th is the most treacherous hole. It has cost a lot of people, and it’s probably the most severe green I’ve ever played in golf. With the pin cut back left on the last day, it’s particularly harsh.

Floyd: It’s such a great golf course overall, I don’t know if I could pick a hole over one that was my favorite. The architecture is so phenomenal. The way the golf course was routed and laid out. It would be very hard for me to pick a hole. And conditions change as well. You play a particular hole downwind, and it becomes into the wind the next day. It differs daily.

Immelman: That’s a good question. I can’t say I have one particular favorite. I will say I think the front nine is very underrated. For many years, the front nine wasn’t broadcast, so many people knew the back nine. Only in the past five years or so have they actually been able to see any golf on that front nine. Maybe people don’t know it as well, but the front nine is really difficult. There aren’t that many birdie opportunities on that front nine. That’s something that’s maybe misunderstood about Augusta National.

6. Is there a shot from your time at Augusta that you would like to have back?

Floyd: When I lost to Faldo in ’90. There were actually two. I got in the playoff on a bad decision on the 71st hole. Actually, the shot was played beautifully, I just played it to the middle of the green and hit it so solid that it went through to the short fringe. Where the pin was, it was almost impossible to two-putt. And I didn’t. I take that as a mental mistake. And that’s the thing I prided myself on. I might get beat by the strike of the ball, but I wasn’t going to get beat by a mental mistake. When you’ve got it going, you keep the pedal to the metal. And I played safe. I played for par, thinking if I par the last two holes, I win. And that’s mental. That’s a mental mistake. I should have been trying to birdie No. 17 and have a two-shot lead going into 18. And that’s the shot that I’ll always remember, even though on the second playoff hole, I pulled a 6-iron into the water. Which people always say, "Oh my god, that has to be the shot." But I should have never got to that shot.

Player: A shot that I wish I could have back was in the final round of the 1961 tournament where I nearly handed Arnold Palmer the green jacket on the 13th hole.  I pushed my drive to the right in the pine trees and had a clear shot out onto the 14th fairway, which would have left me with nothing more than a wedge to the green. But do you think I could get the patrons to move? Not a bit. So I pitched back toward the fairway, but hit it too hard and rolled into Rae’s Creek. A penalty shot and three putts later and I had made a double-bogey 7 to Arnold’s birdie and was suddenly one behind.  It was a young and inexperienced move. Had I not made that mistake and maybe been a bit more stubborn, I believe I would have won that tournament by a couple shots.

Palmer: The one thing that was not so very pleasant was in 1961 I had a one-shot lead going to the last hole and walked to the edge of the gallery ropes to shake hands with a friend there accepting congratulations. Then made 6 to lose the tournament. That was a devastating situation. That was my disaster. That’s the one I’d like to have back.

Immelman: At the end of the day, I won the tournament, so it all added up well. I remember being nervous on the first tee that day. The wind was really blowing hard from left-to-right. I was obviously a little unsettled on the first tee and lost it to the right in the trees. I had to chip out and started with a bogey. And on that first hole, to be honest, it’s one of the hardest opening holes in major championship golf. So bogey isn’t the end of the world, but obviously it wasn’t an ideal start for me being in the lead, trying to settle myself down. The first tee-shot of the day was kind of a tricky one.

Casper: In the playoff with Gene Littler. I had birdied the first hole and had a one-shot lead. I had a terrible drive on the second hole, hit a tree and bounced down left in the heavy rough. Actually was in the water hazard, but the gallery had walked down all of that high grass and my ball was on top of the high grass. About 2 inches behind the ball was a branch that covered half the ball, and the only shot I had was a 9-iron where I had the blade of the club over that branch and underneath the ball to hit it up in the air and over the trees to get it back into the fairway. And it was the most perfect shot I ever hit in my life. You would hit that shot one out of maybe 400. I knocked it back in the fairway then on the back edge of the green on my third shot. Littler had hit a great drive right down in the front of the traps, then he chili-dipped it into the right trap. When we walked off the hole, I had scored 5, and he had scored 6. I was then two shots ahead, and it was the key. I could have scored anything on that hole. I had some extremely good luck in the final round.

7. Can you describe what makes Augusta National such a special place for so many people?

Casper: From the time I drove into Magnolia Lane and witnessed the golf course and the facility, I wanted to win at Augusta. It was such a special place. No place is there in golf like Augusta. It may be the No. 1 sporting event in the world.

Player: Augusta National is like no other course in the world.  It is the only course that holds a major championship year in and year out, so the great history and importance that it holds in the game of golf will remain unparalleled. From Bobby Jones to Tiger Woods, Augusta National has seen all the great names in golf, and helped elevate many golfers to great status with a victory there.

Immelman: There are so many different things. The mystique of the place, the history, the traditions and the rules, those are things that everyone who enters the ground has respect and admiration for. Anybody who loves the game of golf, it’s on their wish list to go to Augusta or play at Augusta. It’s one of those things that is synonymous with our sport, Augusta National and the Masters. It’s certainly unique. I would equate it to Wimbledon in tennis.

Floyd: There’s an ambience like no other. There is a mystique. It’s been there so long so it has an ambience like no other place or tournament. That captures, in short form, how you would describe it.

Palmer: I think the whole situation from Bob Jones, Cliff Roberts, who was the man behind the gun for most of the early years of Augusta, the chairmen through the years were all great people. That’s one of the particulars about Augusta and the fact that it is such a well-known event and it is the opening of the season for golf in America.

 

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