AUGUSTA — The 10th hole at Augusta National has played a more integral role in the last few Masters than some of the golfers.
In each of the last three tournaments, something has happened on the hole named Camellia to entrench the 495-yard par 4 in the memories surrounding that particular year’s result.
Bill and Laura Mehus of Austin, Texas, said that they decided this year, on their sixth trip to The Masters, to sit near the 10th green for that very reason.
“This has been a pretty exciting hole historically, good and bad,” Bill said.
Set up for drama
The hole’s layout is conducive to an exciting atmosphere around the green for the patrons. While the green itself has very little undulation, it slopes from back to front and left to right with a bunker along the right side.
In addition, the fairway doglegs left from the tee box, and a heavy portion of the fairway has a downhill grade.
“Lot of times, the second shot is a downhill lie,” Bill Mehus said.
That makes hitting the target even more difficult, especially with golfers looking to get in a good score before heading to Amen Corner and the rest of the back nine. That target gets even more tricky with steep slopes at the front, back and left sides of the green.
Tom Millon, who now lives in Florida but was a member of South Aiken’s first graduating class in 1982, said that difficulty level makes the hole even more fun to watch.
“It’s one of the hardest holes traditionally, so I think that’s what does it,” he said of the hole’s tendency toward excitement.
For viewing pleasure
There’s no shortage of spots to catch the action surrounding the 10th hole, from tee to green.
As is the case with many of Augusta National’s holes, patrons can line both sides of the tee box to watch golfers kick off their back nine effort. They can also pick a spot anywhere along the fairway, although the areas closest to the dogleg along the right side allow for the most majestic view down to the green.
“I think you can get some good places to watch,” said Florida native Reuben Shipp.
Most patrons who elect to set up for the day at No. 10 do so around the green, though. The main viewing area is to the right, but a thin walking path runs behind the green with patrons allowed to stand one deep along the rope closest to the action.
Both spots grant a view of the golfers’ approach shots, but the angle from directly behind the green is tough to beat if a spot is available.
“You can’t see the tee box, but you see the tee shot, you see the approach and then you see them around the green,” said Columbus, Ga., native Robert Downey.
The first year of No. 10’s most recent time in the spotlight was 2011, when Rory McIlroy came to the hole still leading after a front-nine 37 delayed what had once seemed like an inevitable coronation. The young star had come into the day at 12-under with a four-shot lead.
He hooked his tee shot in between the cabins along the left side of the fairway on the way to a triple bogey, and he went on to shoot an 80 and plummet down the scoreboard.
Karen Brown, a former volunteer on the hole from Athens, Ga., said that the reaction that day, like any day, was a “mixed bag” based on who each patron was cheering for.
“Everybody was very hush-hush,” she said while attending The Masters for the first time as a patron. “Nobody was negative. It’s very rare to hear negative here.”
Earlier this week, McIlroy said he had “no ill feelings” related to that disastrous final round.
“It was a very important day in my career,” he said. “And I don’t know if I had not have had that day, would I be the person and the player that I am sitting here, because I learned so much from it.”
Bubba’s big win
Another reason No. 10 has a fair chance at being the background for history is its place in the playoff format at The Masters.
If two or more players are tied after 72 holes of regulation, they will go back to the 18th and play their first sudden-death playoff hole there before switching over to No. 10.
That’s exactly what happened in 2012. Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen finished the final round tied at 10-under, and both made par at No. 18 on the first playoff hole.
Oosthuizen hit his tee shot on Camellia in the right rough, and Watson hit his well into the trees on the right side to set up one of the most famous shots in recent memory. He hit a hooking shot off the pine straw to within 15 feet of the hole to set up a par that won the green jacket for the University of Georgia product.
Calhoun, Ga., native Tom Shanahan said that while he wasn’t present the day Watson won the playoff, he had been sitting near that spot the day before. As a result, he was fully capable of appreciating the difficulty level.
“You can’t help but think about Bubba Watson’s shot two years ago,” Shanahan said.
On Saturday, Watson hit his approach shot – this time from the fairway – to within just a few feet to set up a rare birdie in a tough round, but he said his past endeavors on that hole haven’t brought him any further magic.
“No, I’ve made plenty of bogeys down there,” he said.
Scott’s rainy day win
With the rain pouring down on Augusta National last April, Australia’s Adam Scott made it two years in a row that the green jacket was awarded after a playoff.
He and Angel Cabrera were tied at 9-under after four rounds, and much like Watson and Oosthuizen the year before, both made par on their opening playoff hole at No. 18.
The rainy conditions made visibility difficult as both men hit the fairway and then the green. Cabrera, the 2009 champion, missed a long birdie putt and then tapped in for par.
That left Scott the chance to make a 15-footer for Australia’s first green jacket, which he did.
“What can I say?” Millon said of the exciting moment at Augusta. “One of many over the years, I’d say.”
As for Scott, he was able to bring his father to the course for a round, and they took the opportunity to re-create the moment, even with the pin in a different spot.
“But absolutely, we stood there on 10 and hit the putt,” he said.
This year’s third round held plenty of crucial moments at No. 10 in addition to Watson’s key birdie.
McIlroy again struggled with the hole, hitting his second shot well left of the green and hit his chip short on the way to a bogey, and Scott’s long birdie putt – which traveled in a similar direction to his winning putt from 2013 – came up inches short.
His playing partner, Jordan Spieth, had his approach land short of the green, but he pitched up tight from there and made par on the way to a 2-under for the day and a share of the lead heading into today’s final round.
“He’s a cool cat,” Mehus – a member of the club that served as Spieth’s home club when he was at the University of Texas – said.
Not all the excitement was related to the golf action, though. With Watson and John Senden preparing to hit their approach shots from the fairway, a female patron took off her shoes and ran across the green and down the slope toward the No. 11 tee box and fairway.
One former volunteer, who wished to remain anonymous, was sitting near the 10th green, and he didn’t mince words regarding that patron’s future after she was caught.
“They’d be arrested,” he said. “Take their credentials, and whoever gave them credentials wouldn’t get them again.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.