It looks lovely, it’s smells lovely but this ‘Camelia’ can destroy cards
It’s a hole that is a potential heartbreaker; just ask Rory McIlroy
The name is deceptive, a lulling device. The 10th hole at Augusta National – known as ‘Camelia’ after an Asian shrub that offers double flowers in white, pink and red down the left side of the fairway and to the rear of the green – is certainly pretty, the dogleg creating a dramatic fall in elevation from the tee to the green of some 100 feet. It is also, historically and statistically, the toughest hole encountered year-in and year-out by the planet’s best golfers in the Masters.
Indeed, very recent history in the past two stagings of the Masters provide two of the tournament’s outstanding images, of the Jekyll and Hyde nature of this par-four hole that lures the unexpected from those venturing upon its pristine grasses: in 2011, lest we forget, it was the scene of Rory McIlroy’s meltdown as, much like an explorer of yore, he discovered vegetation nobody knew was on the course as he lost his way; and, in 2012, it provided the stage for Bubba Watson to produce one of golf’s great recovery shots en route to a maiden Major title.
The 10th is more than a mere precursor to that stretch of holes known as ‘Amen Corner’. It is a hole that is a potential heartbreaker, as McIlroy discovered in running up a triple-bogey seven in the final round in 2011. But he wasn’t the first to be scorned. Scott Hoch, too, was rejected in his time. On the flip-side, Ben Crenshaw and, perhaps most dramatically, Watson have found favour.
Take, and give! More take, though: historically it averages 4.32 and is ranked number one in toughness. And, in proving that appearances can be deceptive, this little piece of heaven on earth has roguish, even devilish, intent.
The 10th tee demands the player to turn the ball around a corner lined with towering cathedral pines. McIlroy’s woes, as we remember, started with a drive which crashed into a tree limb located a mere 100 yards in front of him off the tee and ricocheted almost as far left again. It came to rest between two cabins – known as Peek and Berckmans – and off the map of most spectators let alone the players.
McIlroy was left with no option but to chip back onto the fairway but his woes weren’t over, and his third shot missed the green left and, then, his fourth shot clipped a tree branch as he attempted another recovery.
When the numbers were added up, McIlroy recorded a seven and his head was spinning.
In reflecting on his travails there in 2011, when he seemed destined to win the green jacket until the grand collapse, McIlroy observed: “I felt comfortable on that tee shot all week . . . I don’t think anyone’s been over in those cabins before.” Instead of McIlroy’s seeming stroll to destiny, Charl Schwartzel claimed the green jacket that year.
A year ago, another South African – Louis Oosthuizen – looked to be the likely lad until events on the 10th hole again conspired to have the last laugh. When left-hander Watson pulled his drive into the trees down right of the fairway at the first tie hole, it seems as if his moment had come and gone. But he assessed the situation, noticed he had a good lie and knew there was just sufficient amount of a gap in the trees to attempt to find the green. He did, hooking his shot some 40 yards towards the putting surface and then running after it to see the ball find the green.
Watson actually offered the opinion that he had hit tougher shots – nominating his second on the 17th in regulation – en route to the win, but that recovery shot on the 10th was the defining moment of the Masters of 2012.
Recently, he was asked if he planned to navigate his way back into the midst of the trees to replicate the shot. “No,” he replied, “I want that to live. That might be my only legacy of winning the Masters, so I want that shot to live, and I want it to grow.
“And, hopefully, 20 years from now it’s even tougher and there was bigger trees and was a tougher situation . . . I don’t have any reason to go over there. Hopefully I hit the fairway from now on so I don’t need to practice that shot any more.”
And even if Watson doesn’t see the need to revisit the spot that added to his legend, it is producing those types of shots that most enthral. As he put it: “If you ask any pro, that’s what they look forward to. You love the challenge. That’s why we compete; we want to compete at a high level because you want that adrenaline rush, you want that pressure.
“You want, like we always say, ‘you want the ball in your hands on the last shot of the game’ . . . sometimes you pull those off, but even when you’re finishing 30th in the field or at a tournament, you still have those shots where you’re trying to pull off. Yeah, so that’s what we look for as athletes.”
Fate decreed that Watson got to produce his defining shot on the toughest hole of the Masters. Where better?
Ben Crenshaw – for long the poster boy of golf but until then without a Major victory to call his own – banished the demons with a monstrous 60-footer for birdie on the 10th in the last round of a Masters he won by two shots from Tom Watson. “Golf is the hardest game in the world to play well and as soon as you start thinking you’re somebody special, it’ll teach you a lesson,” said Crenshaw after learning from past defeats to finally post a winning score in a Major.
How the 10th hole has defined champions
American Len Mattiace bogeyed the 72nd hole to deprive him of the green jacket and to put him into a play-off with Canadian left-hander Mike Weir. The nerves that were apparent on the 18th hole were gone by the time Mattiace hit a good drive down the middle of the 10th, the first play-off hole. However, he then pulled his approach into the trees into the trees to the left of the green and then chipped well past the hole before three-putting for a double-bogey to make Weir’s task simpler.
Rory McIlroy led by one stroke as he stood on the 10th tee. By the time he walked off the green some 495 yards away, having recorded a triple-bogey seven, McIlroy was in meltdown.
McIlroy’s tee shot struck a tree and careered left between two cabins and, having played back out onto the fairway, the original error was compounded with an approach that missed the green left and led to further problems with trees.
Introduced the world to Bubba Golf with a play-off win – at the 10th – over Louis Oosthuizen. Of the shot that set up his Masters win, Watson observed: "We had 135 front . . . I think we had 164 to the hole, give or take, maybe a little less. And I hit my 52-degree, my gap wedge, hooked it about 40 yards, hit it about 15 feet off the ground until it got under the tree and then it started rising.
Media mortals: Ordinary Joes on tackling Augusta
Pádraig Slattery: 1996
I have the card to this day, signed by both of my playing partners, which I have kept safely as I am unlikely to get the chance to play the day after the Masters again: April 15th, 1996.
It was the day after Nick Faldo’s win or, put another way, Greg Norman’s collapse; and standing on the 10th tee, where we started, on a beautiful morning, I thought, “this is heaven”.
When you play the course, you really appreciate the undulations which are much more dramatic than come across on television. I was playing off three then and shot a lovely score of 74, a day when I put everything in the hole. We played off the same tees as the pros but the big difference was the course was much shorter than it is now.
I played again a number of years later with John Carr and there no was no comparison, it was so much longer after the so-called Tiger-proofing. The sheer length of it: on the 11th, I hit two full woods and just about got up towards the front edge.
My first experience of playing the course was memorable, truly awesome. I had the day of my life on the greens and my caddie was an expert at reading the lines.
The highlight? I birdied the first, second and third holes - my 10th, 11th and 12th - and, back then, we played off the same tees to the same pins as the pros had the day before.
However, they didn't cut the greens. I remember my caddie on the 13th telling me, “if you were in this position playing yesterday you couldn’t keep the ball out of the creek”. That was the big difference
Pádraig Slattery is Chief Executive of Slattery Communications. He is a member of Portmarnock Golf Club, playing off six.
Séamus Smith: 2000
There was nothing conventional about making our tee time. We – myself and Paddy Murphy, President of the GUI at that time – were playing at 8am and had booked a cab for six o’clock. The taxi never came. We were staying in a house quite a bit away from the course and the other lads hit the roads in all directions in the hope of flagging down a taxi.
At 20 to eight, along came this red pick-up truck driven by the janitor of the local school. One of the lads had cornered him and we jumped in and threw the clubs in the back.
When we got to the entrance gate at Augusta National, the guard only let us in on production of my letter of invitation to play and on strict instructions to the driver that he return immediately to the gate. We were five minutes late for our scheduled tee time but, fortunately for us, ground frost had delayed play by 45 minutes and we got to play.
It was an incredible experience. Although the golf course is quite hilly, it is play underfoot and very comfortable. We were playing with two members of the Ecuador Golf Federation and Paddy played brilliantly, and was level par for a stretch from the seventh to the 12th.
I didn't play too well but my own highlight came on the par-three 12th when I made the most memorable double-bogey ever. I came up short of the creek with my tee shot and then put my second into the bunker over the back. When I stood in the trap, all you could see was this dazzling white sand, the slick green and the water behind. Somehow, I got out to 10 feet, missed the putt, but it was the best double-bogey five I ever made on a par three.
Séamus Smith is a former General Secretary of the Golfing Union of Ireland. He is a member of Clontarf Golf Club and plays off an 18 handicap.
Greg Allen: 2001
We were first to tee off, the 10th, at 7.15am and what made it even more special is that we – two Japanese, a Canadian and myself – were literally the players following in the footsteps of Tiger Woods. It was the day after he had won his fourth straight Major, for the Tiger Slam, and because the greens hadn’t been cut, the spike marks were still visible from the previous day’s historic feat.
I really felt a huge sense of occasion and it’s one of the reasons why I have no great desire to do it again, because it can’t be anything else other than a lesser experience than the first one. I didn’t play particularly well, shot 86 with lots of three-putts and stupid shots into water but the whole experience was magical. My caddie, Shiloh, was a real character and added to the experience.
I made the mistake of parring the first two holes and then put my ball into the water on the 12th. That was the start of the real Augusta experience. From there, I three-putted five times. The whole thing is in the greens and I remember coming in after the round and there was perhaps a dozen of us sitting around a table talking about three-putting and four-putting and I had come in with the least number of three-putts than any of them.
Greg Allen is golf commentator for RTÉ Radio and will be reporting from Augusta National next week. He is a member of Blainroe Golf Club, where he plays off a seven handicap.
Shane O’Donoghue: 2005
We started on the 10th hole which meant hitting ‘Amen Corner’ very quickly in the round. I parred the 12th but then went into Rae’s Creek on the 13th. And, although there’s a part of you that wants to play the perfect shot all the time, I was trying to be realistic about it and so even taking a drop out of the creek was surreal and enjoyable.
I shot a round of 88. On the 16th, after putting out, I went over to the place from where Tiger Woods had played his impossible chip shot the day before. Needless to say, it was a real moment in time to be there, having a chance to play from that and other famous spots on the course that have defined the Masters.
Shane O’Donoghue is host of Living Golf on CNN. His Masters preview special will be aired on CNN tonight at 10pm. He is a member of Clonmel Golf Club where he is a five-handicapper.