Morning Read’s series on Augusta National Golf Club’s back-9 holes concludes with the par-4 18th that has coronated numerous champions
A closer look at Augusta National Golf Club's 18th hole for the Masters:
2021 yardage: 465
1934 yardage: 420
All-time scoring average: 4.23
All-time difficulty rank: 7
Lowest year: 4.01 (2001)
Highest year: 4.46 (1954)
The finale at Augusta National is an uphill dogleg-right hole that features two massive bunkers where the hole bends slightly to the right. The treeline along the right subtly edges out near the turn and should be of concern only for a player looking to cut the corner tightly. The approach is uphill to an elongated, two-tiered green (reportedly 107 feet deep by 50 feet wide) that features bunkers front left and to the right. Front hole locations are more accessible as players can use the slope to the second tier as a backstop.
1958: Mounding at left of green built.
1967: Double bunker constructed on left in fairway landing area.
2002: Masters tees moved back 55-60 yards and repositioned to the golfer’s right by five yards. Bunker complex adjusted, making bunkers approximately 10 percent larger. Trees added left of the fairway bunkers.
Notes: The addition of the double bunker for the 1967 Masters was reportedly in response to Jack Nicklaus, who played the hole as an easy drive-and-pitch hole in winning in 1965 and 1966.
ODDS AND ENDS
The worst any player has scored over par for the week on the 18th is 7 over (5-5-6-7), by Kelly Kraft in 2012 … In 1997, John Huston recorded an eagle, two birdies and a par to play the hole in 4 under for the week, the Masters low for that hole. … There have been six eagles and seven quadruple bogeys. … Three times has the Masters leader led the final hole only — Art Wall Jr. (1959), Gary Player (1978) and Mark O’Meara (1998). … The tee shot is one of the game’s most photographed as players drive through a chute created by the gallery and pine trees along both sides of the teeing ground. ... In 1947, long before television would capture the great shots of the Masters, Byron Nelson performed a shot similar to Bubba Watson’s playoff shot at No. 10 in 2012. Tied with Ben Hogan, Nelson pulled his tee shot into the pines on the right. Nelson then hit a scorching approach under the low-hanging pine branches and watched as it rolled onto the green. Nelson made par and defeated Hogan in an 18-hole playoff the next day. … In 1961, Arnold Palmer was headed toward a second straight Masters win when he reached the 18th on Sunday. He held a one-shot lead over Gary Player, who was already in the clubhouse at 8 under par. After finding the fairway off the tee, Palmer hit a 7-iron approach into the greenside bunker. He then took four shots to finish with a double bogey and lose by a stroke. Player became the Masters’ first foreign-born winner. … In 1967, a 54-year-old Ben Hogan stirred the galleries during the third round. After an even-par outward nine, Hogan was 5 under on the inward side heading to the 18th. Hogan would sink a 25-foot birdie putt for a back-nine 30 that moved him three strokes off the lead. He shot a 77 on Sunday and was not a factor. … The final round of the 1975 Masters may be one of the greatest in terms of star power. Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf, along with an emerging Tom Watson, were all in contention. Nicklaus was already in the clubhouse at 12 under. Miller and Weiskopf were at 11 under as they both reached the 18th green in regulation. Neither, though, could convert his birdie attempt to force a playoff. … In 1978, Tom Watson arrived at the 18th on Sunday needing either a birdie to win or a par to tie Gary Player. Watson chose a conservative approach and hit 4-wood off the tee to avoid the left bunkers. Watson, though, found the pines on the left, pulled his approach left of the green and ultimately settled for a bogey and second place. … In 1979, Ed Sneed had bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes, but nervously clung to a one-stroke lead as he played the final hole on Sunday. His third shot from just off the green came up 6 feet shy of the hole. Sneed’s par-putt attempt came to rest on the cup’s right lip. Sneed, who carded a final-round 76, joined Tom Watson and Fuzzy Zoeller in a playoff that Zoeller eventually won. … In 1986, with Jack Nicklaus already in the clubhouse at 9 under par, Greg Norman, also at 9 under, was in a similar situation as Watson: birdie to win, par to force a playoff. Norman hit 1-iron off the tee to play short of the double bunkers, which he did safely. But it also left an approach of about 185 yards, and Norman pushed his 4-iron shot deep into the gallery on the right and failed to get up and down. He lost by a stroke to Nicklaus. … A year later, Norman was in contention again. He reversed his thinking at the 18th and hit a monstrous drive into the fairway, leaving a 90-yard sand wedge into the green. His second shot easily found the green, but was a disappointing 25 feet from the hole. Norman’s birdie putt to win the Masters outright was on line, but grazed the cup’s left edge, and Norman settled for par. He joined in a three-way playoff with Seve Ballesteros and Larry Mize, who won with an amazing chip-in at the 11th green. … Norman was snakebitten again in 1989, as well. He resorted to a 1-iron off the tee and a 5-iron into the green, but his approach failed to reach the putting surface. Norman again could not convert the up-and-down to join a playoff with Scott Hoch and Nick Faldo, who won the Masters. … Just days before the 1995 Masters, Ben Crenshaw’s longtime mentor, Harvey Penick, died in Texas. Crenshaw attended the funeral on Wednesday and returned to Augusta that night. He opened with a pedestrian 2-under 70, but moved into contention with a 5-under 67 in Friday’s second round. Crenshaw, the 1984 Masters champion, then shot 69-68 on the weekend to defeat Davis Love III by a stroke. After Crenshaw bogeyed the 18th hole, he bent over and began sobbing uncontrollably, comforted by his caddie, Carl Jackson. … In 2004, the 18th hole played as the second-most difficult scoring hole. Phil Mickelson, then 33, birdied the 72nd hole to win by a stroke over Ernie Els and end a streak of 46 majors without a victory.
1997: The outcome was not even remotely in doubt when 21-year-old Tiger Woods walked up the fairway to the 18th green on Sunday. He was a record 12 shots in front of Tom Kite. With a par on the 72nd hole, Woods set a scoring standard of 18 under that stood until Dustin Johnson’s winning score of 20-under 268 in 2020. What made Woods’ victory so memorable were the ramifications. It was the first of his 15 major titles and first of five Masters triumphs. It was the first Masters won by a non-white player. And it set television-ratings records for golf. The manner in which Woods won — a dominating, aggressive style of play — intrigued both golf and non-golf fans, and in short time he became the new face of the game.