By Pat Costello
Sergio Garcia was dead. When he hooked his tee shot left, over Rae’s Creek and under a bush, that should have been the end of his hope of winning. He was forced to take a drop on the pinestraw, punch his ball out and save a scrambling par. Therein lies the problem with the bookend of Amen Corner: it’s too forgiving. A hole at the Master’s should not be easy. Players should have to be on their game from the time they hit their first drive, to when they make their last putt. The 13th hole, formally known as Azalea, needs to be changed.
“I think that you want to make the hard holes harder, but you want to actually make the easier holes easier,” three time Master’s Champion Phil Mickelson said of the historic course. However, it would be physically impossible to make 13 any easier. This weekend alone the scoring average on the hole was 4.614. There were 128 birdies and 131 pars. For reference, there were only 24 birdies on the 12th hole for the whole weekend, and only six in the entire final round. There were six eagles on 13 all weekend, three of which came during the final round. A hole doesn’t get much easier than that.
The solution to this problem is fairly simple: make the hole a Par 4. Currently, the hole measures in at 510 yards, after it was pushed back from 485 yards in 2002. Some have called for Augusta National to purchase more land from Augusta Country Club and extend the hole and keep it a Par 5, but that gives big hitters an advantage, while cutting the knees out of the shorter hitters. Someone like Zach Johnson would never have the option to go for the green, while a guy like Dustin Johnson would still have a chance to get there in two. By moving the tee box back to 485 and making the hole a Par 4, it negates the advantage a player would have. Instead, the player would have to go for it in two, and wouldn’t have a three-putt cushion. This solution would make the hole much more challenging, and actually punish players for not hitting a good drive.
The opponents to this solution say that by making it a Par 4 it changes the identity of the hole. Azalea is normally the hole in which most players begin their back nine charges. However, as I said before, there shouldn’t be a hole at the Master’s that is seen as easy. There should be constant challenge. I don’t want to see Jordan Spieth shooting -18. I want to see a shootout between multiple guys who are not higher than -6. Garcia and Justin Rose gave us a great battle, but making such a crucial mistake at 13 should have punished him more. It’s Amen Corner after all. You should be praying for Par, not saying hallelujah because of a tap in birdie.