Named “Flowering Crab Apple,” the par-3 4th hole at Augusta National Golf Club always rates as one of the toughest holes, as players must navigate a 240-yard tee shot to a green guarded by massive bunkers on the front-right and left while accounting for a sloping green that angles towards the front and off the back.
And while a bit out of the way for patrons and early enough in a round to be forgotten, it had a major impact on the 2014 Masters Tournament.
With the pin located just between the two in the narrow part at the green’s front, players elected to play it safe in Saturday’s third round at the Masters Tournament.
“Whenever that pin location is in the front left, [you] hit it in the left down bunker,” England’s Ian Poulter said. “You can’t be right of the pin, and you certainly can’t go long…so we know when the pin is in that position, if you can keep it on the left edge of the green, okay. If not, it drops in the bunker.”
The hole still took its toll on the field, failing to surrender a birdie all day and forcing 28 of the 51 players still in the field to card a bogey or worse, including leaders Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson and derailing starts by big names such as Fred Couples, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, and Brandt Snedeker.
“I hit a 7-iron, left it short” Bubba Watson said. “I thought I had an easy up-and-down [for par], but I hit it eight feet past [on his second shot].”
Defending champion Scott flew his tee shot over the green and couldn’t stop his downhill chip from running all the way through the green, leaving him a 25-foot uphill putt for par. The Australian’s attempt slid by the hole to the right, but his four-foot comebacker lipped out, leaving him a double-bogey 5. And . the man rated fourth in strokes gained (putting) in 2013, Brandt Snedeker, had a short downhill putt for par, but the miss proved costly as it caught the green’s ridge and ran away from the hole. He ended up five-putting for quadruple-bogey, derailing any hopes of contending for the Green Jacket.
Sunday proved a different sort of test, combining nerves and a pin placement that appeared friendly at first in the back-center of the green. But it was 10 yards directly behind the rightside bunker, with ridge in front of the hole, the green tilting to the left side, and a miss long guaranteed to leave tricky downhill putts.
Matt Kuchar, having notched birdies at Nos. 2 and 3 to tie for the lead, pulled his tee shot on the left edge to leave a massive putt for birdie. Instead, the Georgia Tech grad left it 10 feet short, blew the par attempt by the left edge, and missed the comeback for bogey to notch his first double bogey of the Tournament. He never threatened the lead again
But for the final pair on Sunday, the hole proved a turning point for separation from the field; Spieth’s bunker shot bounced once, twice, then rolled straight in the cup for a birdie and a two-shot lead over Watson, who’s tee shot stopped five feet from the flag for an easy 2 – the first birdies on the hole either of them or their closest pursuers.
“I hit a great shot in there,” Watson said. “[Spieth] hit a better bunker shot. I stepped up there and made the putt.
“Obviously, No. 4 is tough for everybody”
For the week, No. 4 caved just 12 times – only a dozen birdies on the week, as opposed to 99 bogeys and 16 doubles or worse, rating it as the second-toughest hole on the week.
When you think of the Masters, many holes, moments, icons, and memories may spring up, the same with the 2014 rendition of golf’s greatest test. But an epic finish needs a strong set-up, and for the 2014 Masters the fourth hole laid the groundwork for a memorable back-and-forth battle between Jordan Spieth and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson that won’t be quickly forgotten.