There was a time at Augusta when the 8th green was one of the few in existence where a ball could be resting on the front part and the man with the putter could not see the flag. If the pin was far to the left, and back, it was inaccessible for all except the player who knew how to hit a big hook with his putter. The green, happily, has been redesigned to make it fairer.
The drive can be troublesome. About 240 yards out, and right of center, is a large bunker. A tee shot landing in the bunker makes the hole a long-shot par and a probable bogey 6. The 8th has given up the only other double eagle in the Masters, and one of the least publicized ever. It was in the first round in 1967 that Bruce Devlin slammed a hooking four-wood up the big hill, onto the green and into the cup for a 2.
"All I knew when I hit the shot was that it ought to be on the green," says Devlin. "It took about five seconds for word to get back downhill that it had gone in. I'd guess maybe 300 people were in the gallery, but 15,000 have told me they saw it."
After Sarazen's double eagle at the 15th, it was ordained for him to win. By contrast, it was ordained for Devlin to follow his double eagle with five bogeys. Still, they both hit four-woods, didn't they?
NO. 9, 420 YARDS, PAR 4
A long drive that disappears down a hill and then a steep slope upward for the pitch shot make the 9th, essentially, another blind hole at Augusta.
But while it measures the same as the 18th hole and requires an uphill second, and perhaps to the unknowing eye holds the same basic character, the 9th plays far differently. On the 9th, the tee shot gets the benefit of the downward roll; at the 18th the tee shot bores into the hill. Thus, the 9th plays easier.
The two greens are similar, sloping severely downward, and they are fast, faster than most. Many an approach shot backspins off the 9th, and many a putt from the upper back side never stops rolling.
The only player who ever defeated the 9th thoroughly was, again, Billy Joe. He birdied it all four rounds of his '54 Masters. But this seemed trivial compared with the other deeds he performed. His play of the 9th was lost in the frenzy of the back nine on the final day when, like any other Masters, all that comes before seems inconsequential.
It will no doubt be the same again this year. Toward dusk on Sunday, a man who has been seized by the impulse to win will come trudging up the final fairway, a survivor of Amen Corner and Rae's Creek, of himself and of others.