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Amen corner


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 5, 2001

Amen Corner is a name given to the 11th, 12th and 13th holes at Augusta National, specifically the 11th green, 12th hole and 13th tee, which are roped off and inaccessible to spectators. That part of the course is located on a corner of the property, the farthest point from the clubhouse.

The name came from writer Herbert Warren Wind, who in 1958 was working for Sports Illustrated and decided the holes deserved to be named. He remembered an old jazz record he had heard in college and a song called "Shouting in the Amen Corner."

"It fit," Wind said. "You hit a good shot, you're fine. But if you hit in the water, say, 'Amen.' "

The name stuck.

The holes are not only stunning in their beauty but for the role they play in the outcome of the tournament. Each green is guarded by water, and typically traversing the three holes in par will not lose much ground to the field.

The 11th is a downhill, 455-yard, par-4 that is guarded by a pond to the left and Rae's Creek in back. Ben Hogan used to say that if he hit the green, it was a mistake. His intention was to play to the right, chip on and try to save par. This is where Nick Faldo won two of his Masters, in playoffs. It is where Larry Mize chipped in to win a playoff over Greg Norman.

The 12th is a 155-yard par-3 that is fronted by Rae's Creek. It looks simple enough, but the green is only 26 feet from front to back at its narrowest point, and just 36 feet at its deepest.

There are three bunkers on the hole, two in back and one in front. Hitting a shot from the back bunkers can be as maddening as knocking the tee shot in the water, because the player is faced with a downhill shot that might find the creek anyway. Tricky, swirling winds make for a scary tee shot.

"It's probably the most dangerous par-3 in the game," Jack Nicklaus said. "You never know what's going to happen."

Fred Couples got the break of his life at No. 12 in 1992, when his tee shot hit the bank, rolled back and somehow stayed out of the water. He chipped on and made par and went on to win.

Last year, Tiger Woods made a triple-bogey 6 during an opening-round 75 that ultimately may have cost him a chance at winning all four major championships.

The 13th is a dogleg-left par-5, a risk-reward hole that yields lots of birdies. It is reachable in two with a long-to-middle iron, but the creek that fronts the green has ruined many Masters dreams. David Duval's 5-iron approach on Sunday last year got wet. So did Couples' 6-iron in 1998. Curtis Strange hit a 4-wood in the water in 1985.

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