Everybody’s talking about the 13th hole this week at The Masters, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and Jordan Spieth.
A pal of mine walked down to Amen Corner this week and later said, “When golfers are on the 13th tee, they are so far back, you can’t even see them.”
That’s kind of a shame, but Augusta National decided that they were tired of their prettiest hole being a pitch and putt punching bag. It was an expensive change to add the yardage. It was also an agronomic and landscaping miracle, but they did it. The hole looks for all the world like it’s always been the way it is this week.
But it’s not going to play the way we are used to seeing it play, at least according to Tiger Woods in his Masters press conference.
"“Thirteen is kind of what that dramatic change was in 2002,” he said. “That hole is going to play I think with a driver and a mid-iron.”"
That’s probably a wish. The predicted weather for this week at The Masters is not going to help.
"“With the rain and the wind, and if it happens to blow north, it’s right in our faces,” Woods noted. “We’re not going to be able to hit it around the corner and get it down there. The days of me hitting a 3-wood and an 8-iron there are long gone.”"
And when Woods said that, there were dozens of more than middle-aged men in green jackets jumping up and down like cheerleaders. Some of the more spry ones probably did backflips.
Woods even suggested there will be fewer 3s and 7s and more 4s and 5s on the 13th. But will it revert back to the same kind of choice Curtis Strange had in 1985 when he was leading the tournament and chose to go long and pushed his 4-wood second shot into Rae’s Creek?
Augusta National can only hope.
"“It’s hard to get past the corner to have a shot at the green and not be blocked out by the trees,” said Phil Mickelson about the 13th hole."
Rory McIlroy thinks the second shot is definitely more of a challenge.
"“The tee shot is a little — there’s probably less thought that needs to go into the tee shot. You don’t need to do as much with it. You don’t need to turn it around the corner as much,” he explained in his press conference. “But that second shot, I hit a really — I hit two tee shots there yesterday, and the second tee shot I took just a little further left, and had a 5-iron in, and, you know, that ball was a good, you know, 18 inches or two feet above you. It’s a big decision.”"
Anybody who has played golf with that kind of a lie knows how hard it is to hit it to the place you want it to go.
McIlroy cited Dustin Johnson’s comment on Monday at The Masters about the hole and the way it plays. DJ said if he had more than a 5-iron yardage, he would lay up.
"“Depending on where the hole location is, as well, you’re going to see guys lay up to some pins and maybe go for some others.” “Since I’ve played here since 2009, there’s never really been a choice, if you hit a good tee shot, you go for the green. But now there’s a decision to be made.” – Rory McIlroy"
Phil Mickelson, who did not play last year due to controversies over LIV golf, spoke to the media at this week’s Masters briefly, and he was also asked about the 13th hole.
"“It’s hard to get past the corner to have a shot at the green and not be blocked out by the trees. For me anyways. And we played the front of the tee box today,” Mickelson said."
He said he would have to hit a really big slice to get it around the corner. In addition, because the course will be soft, he thinks he has a better chance to stop a wedge on the green.
“I don’t know if it’s really worth the risk for me. I’m a decent wedge player, and I may just try to make a birdie that way,” he added.
Most people agree that Mickelson is, if not the best, certainly one of the best with a wedge.
According to Jordan Spieth, he has number targets and pin locations that will determine whether he lays up or goes for the green at 13.
“The front pin, if you have to lay it up, you have to lay it further back in order to get it close so you can get spin on it,” he explained to media.
"“If I’m more than 210 front, let’s not even try,” he said. “If I’m less than 210 front, let’s see if it’s a good number. I don’t know if that’s the number. But what I’m saying is, it is a change, because if you hit a drive, you were looking, before, you were looking at a 6-iron, and that’s a lot different than between 4 and 3 into that green.”"
He doesn’t think it makes the hole less exciting although he has heard some people say that.
“If it’s warmer, it’s more exciting; but when it’s this cool, it may just be a lot of lay-ups. But we’ll see,” he added.
His thinking is that if the weather is warmer, the ball will fly farther. If it’s cold, it won’t fly as far.
While it was certainly an expensive change for Augusta National to make, the new 13th hole could still give us plenty of thrills. But they might be shots in the water instead of eagle putts.
Will it determine the winner of The Masters?
We will find out on Sunday.