THE WHOLE TRUTH
Question 5: What’s the best hole at Augusta National?
Shipnuck: I’d say the par-5 15th. Thirteen is prettier, probably the prettiest hole out there, but it’s so short. You hit a decent drive, even with a three-wood, and you can reach in two. Somebody hit nine-iron in there last year on Sunday. It’s really just a hard par-4.
Anonymous Pro: You never have a flat lie on that second shot, though. The ball is way above your feet. Television never does justice to how tough that shot is. That green isn’t as easy to hit as it looks, and if you bail left, that swale is nasty. The grass is always thin in there. The green is ridiculously fast. You can hit a perfect drive at 13 and still easily make 7. Or 3. That’s why it’s the best hole.
Shipnuck: I like 15 because it’s a much tougher driving hole and it’s really a do-or-die second shot. Short is in the water, long is dead, and laying up is dicey. It’s the ultimate expression of what the course is about. As you said, you can easily make 7 or 3.
Garrity: I’ll vote for number 10. It doesn’t show up well on TV because it has too much shade, but in person it’s the most awe-inspiring hole on the course. That plunge from the tee down through the pines, then you’re hitting a middle iron back up to a testing green. It challenges your nerves, and it’s historically the toughest hole on the course. Case closed.
Bamberger: Given that new back tee, I think number 11 is the most demanding hole. If you’re really going to play it the way it should be played, you’re smashing some kind of draw, flirting with the trees on the right. You’ve got to let out some shaft because you don’t want to hit a long club into that green. Then you’ve got to hit a straight shot or a fade. If you miss the green, you’ve got to chip your rear end off to save par, maybe even to stay out of the pond.
Van Sickle: Nobody is taking number 12, the world’s most famous par-3? That’s an upset.
Anonymous Pro: Technology has made that hole easier. The ball we use today is better in the wind. How many guys do you see hitting right at the pin now? A lot. It used to be none.
Garrity: You can’t call number 12 the best hole out there. It’s a great fan favorite, but it’s so dependent on a completely unpredictable wind pattern. It’s all guesswork.
Van Sickle: That takes some of the skill out of the shot selection. Remember the study that SI commissioned, and those scientists determined that the wind often gusts in opposite directions and produces tricky crosswinds. It was too much chance, not enough skill. I have to agree with Garrity on number 10. The slope of that hill is astonishing, and the green is framed by pines and flowers.
Shipnuck: Plus it’s got that beautiful Mackenzie bunker down there, which isn’t really in play, but it’s so dramatic to look at as you walk toward the green.
GREEN JACKET PREDICTIONS
And the Winner Is . . .
Bamberger: Dustin Johnson.
Van Sickle: If you keep picking him long enough, you’re bound to be right eventually.
Bamberger: Dustin shows up at the weirdest times with the weirdest things going on in his life. He’s already won; he played dominant golf in Hawaii. He’s an unpredictable but immense talent, and he’s perfect for that golf course. Why not Dustin Johnson?
Shipnuck: His putting, that’s why. My winner is Phil Mickelson. He shot the third-lowest score in Tour history at Phoenix. He’s got a ton of confidence in his new driver and three-wood, and he plays his best golf in Augusta. Phil should have won it last year. My dark-horse pick is Rory McIlroy. It’s amazing how fast these guys can turn it on and off. It’s a great course for him. He’d be quite a comeback story.
Van Sickle: Comeback story? From No. 2 in the world to Masters champ? Do you understand the meaning of the words dark horse?
Shipnuck: That’s why it’s such a bold choice. You wouldn’t normally consider the No. 2 player a dark horse. I’m challenging our readers here.
Anonymous Pro: I like Phil. If he putts even decently, he’ll be in the final group on Sunday. He lives for the Masters. Ian Poulter is my dark horse. If he putts in Augusta like he did in the Ryder Cup, he’s got a chance.
Garrity: The Masters champ has to be someone with a long putter since the game’s ruling bodies have, as I see it, established that anchoring makes the game so much easier. I’ll take Adam Scott. I’ve got to believe he learned something from letting the British Open slip away.
Van Sickle: Maybe he learned he’ll never win a major.
Garrity: Scott is too good not to get one somewhere along the way. For a dark horse, I’ll reverse the order of the British Open finish and go with Ernie Els. He’s got a great record at Augusta, he’s still got enough game to win majors and, of course, he anchors.
Van Sickle: Now the British Open champ is a dark horse? I was leaning toward Charl Schwartzel, but Tiger Woods is too obvious a choice to ignore. My long shot pick is Tim Clark because I hope every major championship for the next three years is won by someone wielding a belly putter or a long putter.
Anonymous Pro: The USGA wouldn’t like that.
Van Sickle: Aww.