AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Customers emptied their seats. Golfers looked up at the sky. On Friday at the Masters, the wind gusted, swirled, and howled through Amen Corner, perplexing the world’s best golfers and ruining their scores.
At the par-4 11th and par-3 12th holes, survival was both a challenge and a goal. During a brutal second round where par was golden on any hole, the 89-man field combined for 112 bogeys, 19 doubles, and seven others in this terrifying corner of Augusta National Golf Club. The low point of the property produced high scores as 30-mile-per-hour blasts whipped the trees.
“You just have to get through it, try not to make doubles essentially,” said Viktor Hovland, one of the few to record a pair of pars on the first two legs of the course’s famous triumvirate, despite settling for a 76 in the second round.
On the 11th, the tee markers were 20 yards from the back edge of the new box. On Friday, the hole measured 486 yards, but it was in the teeth of a fierce wind, making it play much, much longer.
“I ripped 4-iron (on second shot) and barely got it just short right,” said Will Zalatoris, who will enter the weekend in the top 10 for the second year in a row. “I had a chip that I could have easily chipped in the water.”
Since last year’s tournament, the fairway to the right of the green has been reconfigured, and the steeper slope makes the pitch more treacherous because the green runs away from the players, with a pond on the other side.
“I love the changes they made to 11,” Zalatoris said. “The tee shot is pretty wide, but you barely get out of position, and there’s that tree in your way.” You’re looking at 5 to 6 easy.”
In the second round, there were 36 bogeys and 10 doubles or worse on 11 holes. It was the most difficult hole at Augusta National, with a stroke average of 4.629. (56-over par). The hole was drilled seven yards from the front, five yards from the left edge, and less than 30 feet from the right side of the narrow finger.
“I mean, you’ve really got nowhere to hit it because obviously you don’t want to go in the water,” Hovland explained. “As a result, you tend to aim it slightly to the right. But you miss it right away, and you don’t have an easy shot.”
It was a simple hole for contestants called Kevin. On the 11th hole, Kevin Na made one of two birdies. He hit a 206-yard iron shot that careened off one of the mounds to the right of the green, kicked left, and came to a rest seven feet from the hole. After a well-hit drive, Kevin Kisner was confronted with a 221-yard field. He sunk the putt after hitting his approach nine feet left of the front right hole spot.
Kisner and Na were two of the ten golfers in the 89-man field to make the cut on Friday. In the first two days of the Masters, there have been five birdies on No. 11, with Kisner making two of them.
Tom Hoge was one of many who slammed his approach shot into the bank of customers sat on the green’s right side. His ball landed near the railing of the stadium. He came within seven feet of the hole with a wonderful spinning 70-yard pitch off matted down turf, but he missed the par putt.
“The second shot was terrible because you’re standing on the top of the hill with a 3-wood into the green,” he added.
The par-3 12th hole is no walk in the park, even on a quieter day. Its small green, which is guarded by thick bunkers and Rae’s Creek, necessitates precise club selection, shot trajectory, and a safe starting line. The unpredictability of the wind put the tactics and commitment of the players to the test.
Jordan Spieth’s woes at the 12th hole persisted. Spieth, who let the 2016 green jacket slip away with a quadruple bogey on the 18th hole, rinsed a couple of balls on Friday, making a triple bogey, and missing the cut.
On hole 12, the field combined for 22 bogeys and six double bogeys or worse, making it Augusta National’s ninth most difficult hole.
Lee Westwood reflected on his double-double bogey run through 11 and 12. “I missed in the back trap on 12,” he recalled. “Which way do you want to go?” Sure, in the water. The wind is increasing and decreasing. It’s simply inconvenient. It’s quite difficult. Today, you’ll need a lot of control and a little bit of luck.”
On No. 12, Corey Conners’ approach fell short of the green, but the ball landed on a little shelf of grass, which he took advantage of, chipping in for one of the 15 birdies made there.
On the 12th hole, Hovland was fortunate to hit third in his partnership, allowing him to observe and change his playing companions, Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele’s ball flight. He hit a dull, low-spin shot to get through the wind, but he was aware that an unexpected gust could land him in the back bunker.
Hovland explained, “It’s just one of those holes.” “It’s a case of hitting it and hoping for the best.”
Scottie Scheffler, the 36-hole leader, and Joaquin Niemann, the chaser, separated themselves from the field by playing the 11th and 12th holes under par. They were able to maintain momentum and prosper on a challenging day by making smart, quality shots.
They were, however, the exceptions. The wind was victorious.
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