Expert advice for Sunday's traditional back-nine pin placements

Sunday April 8th, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- As Phil Mickelson slipped a green jacket onto Charl Schwartzel last year, Schwartzel's caddie, Greg Hearmon, said, "As always, it happens on the back nine on Sunday ... just like you dreamt it."
It certainly did for Schwartzel, who birdied his last four holes last year. This year, like all years, the final nine holes on Sunday will play a major role in deciding the winner. The good news for the players is that traditional Sunday pin locations have been established over the years, so they have a good idea of what they’ll be facing.
"Augusta National doesn't reward good shots, it never has," said Peter Kostis, a CBS golf analyst who sits in the 13th tower every year at the Masters. "It always rewards great shots. If you hit a great shot, then you can attack some of these holes. But if you don't, you'd better damn well know where to miss it, because if the ball goes into the wrong place you're going to pay a dear price."
I asked Kostis, Jim “Bones” Mackay (caddie for three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson) and John Wood (caddie for PGA Tour star Hunter Mahan) to explain how to approach these hole locations. Here’s what they had to say.

2011 Sunday hole locations at 10, 11, and 12
2011 Sunday hole locations at 10, 11, and 12

10 (Camellia), Par 4, 495 yards
Mackay: "You want to put the ball in the fairway first, but the big thing about that hole is club selection. Where do you ultimately want to play it from? Certainly if the pin is back-left, you certainly don't want to mess with long and left, a la Lenny Mattice in that playoff [2003 with Mike Weir]."
Wood: "From the fairway, we're going to try and hit a touch right of the pin and hopefully get a putt that goes straight uphill with a touch of right-to-left. That's as green light as it gets on that green, but obviously it is all relative."
Kostis: "It is not that easy a hole location. The ideal place to putt from is short-side, back up the slope a little bit, but it's difficult to get the ball there. What makes that hole difficult is that it looks like it tilts from back to front, but it doesn't."
11 (White Dogwood), Par 4, 505 yards
Mackay: "Off the tee you just want to be in the fairway. To a pin that severe, you want to be in the short grass for sure, so you're just trying to hit into the fairway and make four. Hitting to the hole, 30 feet, 40 feet right is often not a bad shot there. If you make three on it, it's a happy accident and you move on."
Wood: "Unless the conditions are such that it is so downwind you're going to have a 9-iron or an 8-iron going in, you don't go at that flag. If you're sitting back there with a 5-iron or a 4-iron, you're going to aim at the right edge of the green and try to hit a shot that lands short of the green maybe and on the right edge of the green."
Kostis: "You've just got to stay away from that hole. You'll see guys hit it short and right, or pin-high and right all day long. It's just not a hole that you can go for."
12 (Golden Bell), Par 3, 155 yards
Mackay: "The question is, Are you going to get the wind you want when your player is ready to play? When the wind is blowing 15 mph, you're on the tee thinking that three is a fantastic score here, let's hit the ball over the front bunker, two-putt and get the hell out of here. But if you are playing in a 4 mph wind and the green is receptive, you'll be much more likely to do what Phil's done a couple of times and try to make a two."
Wood: "No matter where the pin is, we're going to try and hit it in the middle, 4 or 5 yards over the bunker, and leave ourselves a 25- or 30-footer. If you are in position to win, to me, it's a lot like No. 17 at Sawgrass because it's always in the back of your mind. But no matter what your position is, you start thinking about it. You start thinking about the wind there and what it's supposed to be doing because the wind is more goofy there than any other part of the golf course."
Kostis: "This is arguably the most difficult hole location on 12 because if you take enough club to get the ball pin-high, you've got a very small area to hit it in. You've got to hit it right of the back bunker, and if you don't hit it there you're either going to pull it and end up in the back bunker or mis-hit it into the water. Twelve is the ultimate par 3 because it requires you to pick a line, pick a distance, and execute both simultaneously."
13 (Azalea), Par 5, 510 yards
Mackay: "That's an eagle pin. Most guys are hooking 3-woods, but because Phil is left-handed, we get to slice a driver. We're just trying to put the ball in the fairway because if you do you'll most likely have nothing more than about a 5-iron there into the green. Then it's a matter of hitting that 5-iron and getting it onto the proper ledge and letting it feed to the hole."
Wood: "If you have played 10, 11 and 12 well, at this point you're thinking about pressing down the accelerator and saying to yourself, 'Let's really be aggressive off this tee and turn it around a little bit.' Depending on the club, you may aim a little bit more to the left and play the break. In most cases, we’re going to come in 20- or 30-feet left and long and have an eagle putt coming back down."
Kostis: "Thirteen is the eagle hole, maybe even the double-eagle hole with the traditional Sunday hole location. The distance that you have to negotiate on your second shot is not particularly difficult; it's your stance that makes it difficult. People don't realize how much above your feet the ball is. I think it's a testament to the fact that you don't have to build a 667-yard par-5 in order to make it exciting."

Traditional Sunday hole locations at the Masters
2011 Sunday hole locations at 13, 14, and 15

14 (Chinese Fir), Par 4, 440 yards
Mackay: “There are birdie pins on this hole and there are par pins. If you get the way back-left pin, it's tough to get the ball close to the hole, but on Sunday you've got the pin that's just 30 feet from there, and you'll see about 10 guys almost hole it from there because everything kind of feeds to the hole -- which is what happened to Phil in 2010."
Wood: “This is arguably the toughest green on the golf course. The tee shot is typically a driver for us because Hunter's typical shot is a draw and it's much easier to get a short iron into that pin. The play is to hit long and left and have the ball swing back around to the pin."
Kostis: "Again, that hole location, you can funnel a ball toward it.  You want to hit it left of the hole, maybe 20 feet left of the hole and maybe a fraction long, and make sure you get it over the ridge."
15 (Firethorn), Par 5, 530 yards
Mackay: "It's an eagle pin, and guys have made eagle there on Sundays. There are a couple of very, very hard pins there, but the one they typically use on Sunday is the easiest of the four pin placements. Typically Phil will be hitting 4-iron to an 8-iron, which is what he hit into there the last time he won in 2010 because he was so jacked up and hitting the ball so far."
Wood: "Fifteen, to me, the second shot is one of the trickiest we'll play all day. You're typically standing back there with a 3-, 4-, or 5-iron and you typically have about a 3- or a 4-yard window in which to land it. If you land it short, the ball’s going to hit the bank angle and water. The ball can also release and go through the green, and you're going to have a very tricky chip coming back up. You know this is a swing that could decide it."
Kostis: "Again, 15 is an eagle location because the slope from back to front is significant enough that you can stop the ball and get it close. But you've got to be in the right side of the fairway; you can't mess with the trees that pinch in on the left side of the fairway. If you have to curve it around the trees, you're either looking to bail out into the right bunker or you're bringing in the possibility of going over the green."

Traditional Sunday hole locations at the Masters
2011 Sunday hole locations at 16, 17, and 18
16 (Redbud), Par 3, 170
Mackay: "Typically that's an 8-iron, but players are keeping in mind that you can hit a shot 8 feet above the hole and it will be the hardest 8-footer you'll ever have in your life. You are going to make way more 30-footers from under the hole there than you are from 8 feet above it."
Wood: "It's a mystery to me, but that shot always plays a little bit short and I don't know why. The one place we cannot go on this hole is long and right. In 25 years of watching the Masters and being a caddie in 13, I've never seen a putt from up there that's a gimme."
Kostis: "You need to hit it on a line where you can catch the slope and let it funnel the ball down to the hole. If you can do that, home run. The place where you want to miss is actually where Tiger Woods famously chipped from in 2005 in the final round. It's easier to chip up the slope from the left side of the green than it is to putt from the upper-right corner. It's also okay to be short and have to putt back up the swale, but the back bunker is jail."
17 (Nandina), Par 4, 440 yards
Mackay: "It's really hard to stay below that pin because you can spin the ball off the front right. You have to pull the right club from the bag in the fairway and hit it 10 feet short and left of the hole. Jack Nicklaus hit it too far left [in 1986]. I'm telling you, it's crazy fast."
Wood: "You can be about 15 feet short of that pin, but any more and you're going to catch the right ridge and go all the way back down. The line is pretty much right at the flag, maybe a touch left just to give yourself a little bit of room. If you have a lead, you just want to put the ball 20 feet short and left, make par get yourself to 18."
Kostis: "You've got to put the ball in the fairway to have any chance to get the ball on the green. The weather plays a big role in that. Long and long-right are ... well, there are body bags down there. Ideally you want to hit it to the middle and let the ball work toward the hole a little."
18 (Holly), Par 4, 456
Mackay: "When people go to Augusta for the first time, you hear them say that they can't believe how uphill 18 is and how tough that tee shot is. The fairway bunkers are absolutely in play for Phil off the tee. He can't get 3-wood into them, so that's great. Phil hit 3-wood, 8-iron into there in 2004 and hit 3-wood, 7-iron in 2010."
Wood: "Most amateurs would get on the tee that these guys play and be shocked—you don't have a lot of room to maneuver the ball there. If we're in position, that is a green-light pin. It's a draw-er's pin, so you can carry something about pin high and maybe go just a little bit long."
Kostis: "First of all, you've got to eliminate hitting into the trees on the left, without blocking the ball into the trees on the right. The perfect shot for a right-hander is a hard, low cut. There is a backstop behind the green, and you can use gravity to help bring the ball back down. The bad news is that if you mis-club or are in the first cut and catch a jumper, being uphill, it's really easy for the ball to release and go over."

More From the Web