The 1st hole not only relinquished an eagle deuce to Roberto, but two years later, during the third round, it gave up another to another foreigner, Takaaki Kono of Japan. He plopped a seven-iron into the cup, bowed, and then birdied the 2nd.
This hole also marked the beginning of one of the most thrilling episodes in the Masters. In 1956 an amateur named Ken Venturi showed up. The first day, in his first Masters, he birdied No. 1, then 2, then 3 and then 4. He blistered the place with a 66 and held the lead for 70 amazing holes until a violent wind, slick greens and his own inexperience undid him.
Years before, it was Venturi's tutor, Byron Nelson, who proved that the 1st hole is not necessarily a pushover. Nelson had to face Ben Hogan in the 1942 Masters playoff. Sick to his stomach as he started, as usual, and asked to compete before a gallery that included practically the entire field—the other pros had stayed over to watch—Nelson shanked his tee shot on No. 1 and made a double bogey 6. Through five holes he was three strokes behind. From that point on, however, it is pure lore how Nelson played six-under-par golf—"the best of my career"—and beat Hogan by one shot.
NO. 2, 555 YARDS, PAR 5
With snow on the ground, Augusta's 2nd would resemble a nice lower-intermediate ski run. It goes out and then down and around to the left, through a forest of tall pines. With a good lie and a helping breeze, the 2nd can be reached in two blows but it takes the most perfect of shots, for the green is hard to hold and there are bunkers guarding the front. Birdies are usually the result of a good, long lag putt, or a fine chip shot or bunker shot. Birdies are sometimes taken for granted here, but no one who saw it will ever forget Gene Littler, in his 1970 playoff with Billy Casper, hitting a wedge about 10 feet, thus inventing the squirt-shank-scruff, on the "easy" 2nd hole.
NO. 3, 355 YARDS, PAR 4
If there is an unfair hole on the front nine, it is this one. The drive is gently uphill and reasonably open, but the green is on a ledge and extremely difficult to hold. An all-but-perfect approach is likely to bound over, or stop short. A poor shot can bounce off a hill and ease into the pin, or skip up and onto the green, accidentally. Because of the shape of the green, the 3rd hole remains one of the three holes on the front nine (the 5th and 7th are the others) that have never been eagled during the tournament.
A hillside to the right of the green, however, has become one of the favorite hangouts of veteran Masters watchers. There, one can follow the shots coming into the 3rd as well as the entire 4th hole. And besides that, it is the point of no return. The viewer has walked down and then up the 1st, down and across the 2nd, staying on top of the hill approximately where the second shots are struck. He then has cut through the trees a short distance and arrived leisurely at the 3rd without missing anything. To leave the 3rd green and go all the way up to the 4th green is to commit himself to walking the hidden and tiring 5th hole, from which he only has to come back down to civilization again, possibly with a coronary.
NO. 4, 220 YARDS, PAR 3
Here is one of the superb one-shot holes in golf. Like most of the greens at Augusta, this one is enormous and heavily contoured. The player simply must gamble with the yawning bunker fronting the green and try to get close to the flag, or risk three-putting. It is the longest par-3 on the course, and on more than one memorable occasion it has been the turning point in a brilliant round.