A Tradition Unlike Any Other

Tiger Woods hits his fourth round tee shot onto the green at Golden Bell, the infamous 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club, en route to his fifth Masters victory and his first green jacket since his last win in 2005.

The 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club proved to be the deciding factor in this year’s Masters tournament. This short par three named Golden Bell is a part of Augusta’s famous Amen Corner. It is a beautiful hole that played to 155 yards each round of the tournament. The hole has a tight green with a bunker in the front and back, and golfers must hit over the intimidating Rae’s Creek, which flows between the tee box and the green, to reach it. The pin is usually placed on the front right side of the green, tempting players to play risky and aim right at it.

Historically, the 12th hole ranks fourth highest in scoring average (in terms of par) at 3.28, and on Sunday, it was the hardest scoring hole on the course with an average score of 3.338, including nine double bogeys or worse, and only six birdies.

Taking a glimpse at this hole, many fans and common golfers probably think they could hit this green. It seems pretty simple. I think I could even plunk a ball on the green with a seven iron. It’s just 155 yards right? But it’s not as easy as it looks. For one, winds are swirling about on Golden Bell, making for a tough short iron shot that could easily get caught in the constantly changing winds. But it’s also the moment, the pressure and the thousands of eyes directed at you from the gallery. Everyone always says the Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday, and that was certainly the case in 2019.

Heading into Sunday, Francesco Molinari had the lead at 13 under, followed by Tiger Woods and Tony Finau at 11 under, Brooks Koepka at 10 under and Ian Poulter at 9 under. But it all changed at the 12th. Koepka, Poulter and Finau all found the creek, carding double bogeys. Molinari also found the water in complete disaster, which virtually ended his hope for a green jacket. Molinari is one of the most consistent players on tour, and this double bogey was just his third bogey or worse in the entire tournament. If he hit the green, the final few holes would have been much different. But the pressure of the famous hole got to him.

The player who made it safely over the water on 12? Tiger Woods. Composure is key on this hole, and Tiger hit it right to the middle of the green in the coolest and calmest way he could, leading him to another Masters victory.

Just a few years ago, Jordan Spieth let the 12th get to him. Going for back to back Masters titles, Spieth had a one-shot lead over Danny Willett. He put not one, but two balls in the water on 12 to the dismay of the world. I remember sitting on my couch, jaw dropped in shock. It was a colossal choke.

Many before Spieth and Molinari have done the same thing. Greg Norman lost his lead in ’96 by hitting his tee shot in the creek and carding a double bogey. Even Arnold Palmer did it back in 1959, where he had a five-stroke lead going into 12, but came up wet, recording a triple bogey six and blowing his chance at a green jacket.

It’s been done before. Spieth and Molinari weren’t the first and they certainly won’t be the last to give up the green jacket at the seemingly simple but surprisingly difficult Golden Bell.

Contact Cam Cobey at ccobey@colgate.edu.

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