Fergus Bisset looks at the impact of the differing pin positions at Augusta National - and how the pros attack them
Augusta is one of the most versatile courses in world golf. There are few, if any, layouts where the difficulty of the holes can be affected so dramatically by the choice of pin position. The stats from the 2014 tournament show some incredible variations in the difficulty ranking of holes from one day of competition to another.
To a certain extent this is down to changing winds and tees moving up or back but, more significantly, the difference is because of shifting pin positions. On a number of holes at Augusta the tournament committee has the power to turn a realistic birdie chance into a potential banana skin, simply by moving the flag a few yards.
Here, we look at the holes at Augusta where the choice of pin location has the most substantial bearing on the challenge the players will face each day in the year’s first Major; The flags demanding respect that cause bogeys and worse, and those inviting aggression that generate birdies.
HOLE 4 – FLOWERING CRAB APPLE
2014 Toughest Day: Round 3 – Avg. score 3.71, Rank 1st (pin front)
2014 Easiest Day: Round 1 – Avg. score 3.28, Rank 7th (pin back left)
This short hole provides a great early-round example of the importance of pin positions at Augusta. When the flag is in the front section of the green, on the narrow portion between the two bunkers, it’s incredibly difficult to get the ball close, there’s only the tiniest margin for error either left or right. If a player does stray laterally, the shot from in (or around) either of those bunkers is devilishly difficult – trying to flip the ball up and stop it on an area of green the size, and speed, of a snooker table. With the pin in this location in round 3 last year, this was the hardest hole on the course by some margin, there were six double bogeys that day – three more than on any other hole. If the pin is at the back of the green, as it was in round 1 last year, there’s more space to miss on either side and an up-and-down is far more feasible.
HOLE 7 – PAMPAS
2014 Toughest Day: Round 3 – Avg. score 4.45, Rank 3rd (pin front centre-left)
2014 Easiest Day: Round 4 – Avg. score 3.98, Rank 13th (pin front right)
On Saturday in 2014, the pin was at the front of the green, just over the bunkers and extremely difficult to get at. A fraction short meant sand, a hair right and the ball drifted away to the front right of the green, just long resulted in an incredibly slippery putt, chip or bunker shot back down the slope. The hole was the undoing of John Senden who’d been in contention through two rounds. His second shot was short and his third caught the wrong side of the slope, filtering to the right, he three-putted for a double-bogey and slid down the leaderboard. On the Sunday the pin was positioned in the lower front-right of the green with everything feeding towards it. So there was a far bigger target to aim for and still get the ball close. There were 16 birdies on this hole in the final round compared to just two on the Saturday. With the pin front right, this hole is a huge birdie chance. With the pin front left, it’s take par and move on!