Don't give me the 18th at Pebble Beach. Or the 8th at Pine Valley. The 17th at Sawgrass? Pleeeeease. Don't tell me about number 1 at Merion. O.K., the pins have baskets instead of flags. Call the weavers' union. You can keep the 16th at Cypress Point, too. I don't know anybody who has made a par at the 16th at Cypress Point in my lifetime, and I won't in the next one, so why discuss it? If that hole is a par-3, how come you have to hit a driver?
No, the best hole in the country is a hellacious, wonderful, terrifying, simple, treacherous, impossible, perfect molar-knocker of a par-3. It's a hole you play with a seven-iron, a sand wedge and eight weeks of scuba lessons. The best hole in the country is the 12th at Augusta National. Everything else is the front nine at the Sturgeon Bay Night Links.
Lloyd Mangrum called the 12th "the meanest little hole in the world." Jack Nicklaus calls it "the hardest tournament hole in golf." Fuzzy Zoeller calls it "the spookiest little par-3 we play."
More green jackets have been lost at the 12th than at the Augusta City Dry Cleaners. When the Masters comes to shove next Sunday, you can bet somebody is going to walk away from 12 looking as though he had just heard from the IRS. Or
. Tom Weiskopf made a 13 there once. He bounced back the next day with a 7. That was the last time anybody saw him with hair.
Sam Snead once made an 8 there and withdrew. Toney Penna hit the flagstick and still made 5. Gary Player putted off the green twice—on consecutive days. Twelve could drive a Baptist to drink.
Don't come to the 12th tee with a little fear hidden in your sock. Or a loop at the top. Or the Sunday Masters lead. You'll end up with a wadded acceptance speech and a wet Foot-Joy.
In 1973, J.C. Snead doubled it in the final round and lost by a shot to Tommy Aaron. In 1977, Hubert Green was four under par through 11 holes on Friday when he buried his tee shot in a back bunker, beat his bunker blast across the green and into the creek, dropped another ball in the bunker, chipped out to 20 feet and made it for double bogey. He took himself out of the tournament on that hole, but it was a hell of a nice putt.
Jack Nicklaus might have a green coat for every day of the week right now if he hadn't double-bogeyed 12 on Saturday in 1981. He lost by two shots to Tom Watson. You'll recall that when Nicklaus did win again (1986), his drop-dead 30 on the back nine Sunday included a bogey on 12. If he just makes a par there, he shoots 29 and is immediately given the southeastern quadrant of the United States.
Gary Player had the Masters won in 1962 until he bogeyed 12 on Sunday and fell into a three-way tie. In the 18-hole playoff the next day, he came to 12 with a three-shot lead and bogeyed it again. Bye. In 1964, Dave Marr was three back and on a run when he skipped one off the water, onto the bank and back in the water. Glory has a funny way of going glug, glug at 12.
In 1982, Seve Ballesteros bogeyed it Sunday and lost by one. On the last day in 1984, Larry Nelson came to the 12th nipping at Ben Crenshaw's spikes. Nelson was within one shot, but couldn't decide between a six-iron and a seven-iron. He should've chosen a waffle iron. "I hit it so bad I didn't know whether to tell it to get up or get down," says Nelson. It bisected the creek perfectly. Nelson made a 5 and finished fourth. In 1987, Jodie Mudd bogeyed the hole twice and doubled it once and lost by a shot.