There is only one thing you really need to know about Augusta National’s 10th hole: Nothing good ever happens here.
Martin Kaymer, the 2010 PGA champion, uttered that line after his misadventure through the foliage left of the fairway led to a double bogey and a 78 during his second Masters, in ’11. “That hole does not like me,” Kaymer said.
He is not the only one. The 10th is an equal-opportunity dream crusher. Would it surprise you to hear that this dreaded par-4 ranks as the most difficult hole in Masters history (4.317 stroke average)? Perhaps more telling, the 18 players who have taken on the hole in sudden-death playoffs have combined to shoot 81 on it—10 pars, seven bogeys, one double.
You may argue that Bubba Watson’s off-the-pine-straw-and-?around-the-cathedral-of-pines? shot in last year’s playoff disproves the theory, that something good has happened here. Not so fast. Remember, Watson executed a shot for the ages just to make par, which was enough to beat Louis Oosthuizen.
Last year’s dramatic finish cast a light on this underappreciated hole, which has kicked butt forever. The Augusta National Invitational Tournament (as the Masters was christened) began at the 10th on a crisp March morning in 1934. The great Ralph Stonehouse hit the first shot there because it was originally number 1 on the scorecard. The nines were reversed the next year, supposedly because low-lying areas like Amen Corner were shadier and slower to defrost than the sun-drenched holes on the other nine.
The 10th is called Camellia, after a genus of a flowering Asian evergreen shrub that still grows left of the fairway and behind the green. Camellia is unloved for three simple reasons. One, the tee shot is a beast: a hard right-to-left shot that must catch the downslope of the dogleg to pick up an extra 30 to 50 yards of roll. Two, the approach shot is a beast: typically a mid-iron off a downhill, sidehill lie to a green around which there are no bail-out options. Three, the green is a beast: steeply sloped from back right to front left and one of the course’s most-feared putting surfaces.
Then there’s the elevation change that messes with club selection. The drop from the tee box to the fairway bunker that guarded the original green is 108 feet. In 1937 the green was moved 50 yards back, creating today’s picturesque setting. “I’m a skier, and I think the 10th is a blue run on any given mountain,” says Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion.
A few strokes of genius have been played here over the years. Ben Crenshaw drained an ocean liner of a putt when he won in 1984, a 60-footer across the late-afternoon shadows with 10 feet of break. Sam Snead chipped in for birdie from behind the green—a dangerous 65-foot downhill slider—when he beat Ben Hogan in a ’54 playoff.
The body of evidence, however, is filled with bodies. Take 1940, when Lloyd Mangrum played one of the Masters’ great rounds. He hit all 18 greens in regulation and shot 64. Mangrum’s only glitch? He three-putted the 10th. On the first hole of sudden death in 1989, Scott Hoch missed a 21⁄2-footer that would’ve won the green jacket. Two shots back in ’81, Greg Norman made double bogey, and forgotten during Jack Nicklaus’s remarkable comeback in ’86 is the Shark’s double at the 10th that year as well, when he was tied for the lead with Seve Ballesteros. Norman finished one back.
Len Mattiace’s final-round 65 in 2003 included a final-hole bogey. Then in the playoff Mattiace hooked his approach shot into the trees and the 10th squashed him like a bug on a windshield. When Mike Weir holed his bogey putt, Mattiace was still facing a five-footer for double. In ’11, Rory McIlroy walked to the 10th on Sunday with a one-shot lead, hit his tee shot way left and walked off with a triple bogey.
The record for the highest score? That belongs to Danny Lee, who in 2009 was 18 and the reigning U.S. Amateur champ. Coming off an eagle at the 8th and a birdie at the 9th, Lee had a 10-foot par putt at the 10th. He promptly six-putted for a nine.
And just last year, Phil Mickelson’s tee shot was lost in the trees on Thursday. He made triple bogey and finished two back. The location of Phil’s costly tee ball remains unknown. So, too, does the final resting place of a longtime British golf writer who died a dozen years ago. When a request to spread his ashes at Augusta National was turned down, several colleagues discreetly got the job done.
The exact location cannot be revealed, but it was somewhere alongside number 10. It’s a fitting memorial since the 10th is where Masters dreams go to die.