The holes which must be mastered

 

FROM a position on the hump hacked 11th fairway, about 240 yards from the green, the most famous section of Angusta National reveals itself. Amen Corner, where the azaleas have yet to bloom this year because of an unusually severe winter, is where the battle for the Masters will begin in earnest on Sunday afternoon.

If they happen to par the 11th, leading competitors will be happy with the same return from the notoriously difficult 12th, which has been the burial place of countless dreams. From then on, however, they will be aware that the course must be attacked if a winning total is to be reached.

It was with this in mind that Bobby Jones hit on the idea of having two reachable par fives on the homeward journey the 13th and 15th. And when the mathematical target was attained, he presented the competitor with a superb finishing hole where par could be an elusive target for a potential champion.

13th: 485 yards, par 5

NOW that it is possible to play out of the tributary to Rae's Creek once more, the front of this fiendishly difficult green will not be quite so fearsome. This is a classic par five the ultimate in a two shot gamble.

Ben Crenshaw birdied it in both the third and forth rounds last year. But the 1985 tournament leader, Curtis Strange, took an extremely costly bogey there while being passed by the eventual winner, Bernhard Langer. And the Japanese, Tommy Nakajima carded a wretched 13 in 1978.

"It is the only hole where I will have to play a draw," predicted Colin Montgomerie, a natural fader of the ball. Essentially, the key decision is whether to go for the green or lay up. That will depend on the flag position and how successfully the Player has hooked the ball off the tee.

15th: 500 yards, par 5

TOM WATSON was in the water here in every round last year, carding 5, 6, 6, 8 over the four days. The hole is made for long hitters, like Fred Couples, Davis Love and Greg Norman, who could be left with only medium to short iron second shots.

Jumbo Ozaki took an 11 here in 1987 but it was also the scene of spectacularly productive scoring by Jack Nicklaus, who eagled it in his triumphant charge of 1986. Jose Maria Olazabal also carded are eagle on his way to victory in 1994, when a five iron approach barely held the apron.

Against a stiff wind, the second shot is generally a lay up, but I can recall Ronan Rafferty declining to go for the green with a four iron in 1990. And, of course, Seve Ballesteros hit the same club into the water in 1986, when set for victory.

18th: 405 yards, par 4

WITH the tee tucked back almost to the metal observation platform, it is no longer possible to match the achievement of Ian Woosnam, who smashed his drive over all the trouble to the left when on his way to winning in 1991. Now, the two gaping bunkers are very much in play while the view to the right is of a line of trees and a slim section of fairway in the distance.

Given its configuration as a classic hole for a fader of the ball, it is small wonder that Colin Montgomerie was prompted to remark. "If I get in position to win, I reckon I could close my eyes and hit that fairway." One hopes that the line won't come back to haunt him.

On Sunday, the flag is almost invariably to the front of a green which rises almost 80 feet above the level of the tee. An exception was in 1986 when Nicklaus had to hit a long, lag putt to the back tier to win. But the more common sight is of a player in Sandy Lyle's position, putting downhill to the target.