Masters 2013: The perils of Augusta's 'Bogey Bend'

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson

Think of the Masters and you inevitably think of Augusta's signature holes - that famous stretch around Amen Corner, the 11th, 12th and 13th.

The front nine is less well known, largely because TV coverage has been more restricted over the years. But while it may be less iconic than Augusta's inward half, it is no less dangerous. In fact, the first ranked the hardest hole in 2012.

Historically, though, Augusta's three toughest holes have been the 10th followed by the 11th and the treacherous 12th. But the long par-three fourth is actually tied third with the short 12th - even with its capricious winds and Rae's Creek - and the fifth is the next most difficult in the all-time rankings.

Combined with the mercurial short sixth, you have a stretch of holes to rival their more famous back-nine counterparts. Bogey Bend, if you will.

"If you can get through those in level par you're a happy man," said BBC golf commentator Ken Brown.

The fourth is a daunting downhill par three, which can play up to 240 yards from the back tee. The perimeter of the property runs down the right and behind the shallow green, which is guarded by a deep pot bunker at the front and a long bunker to the left.

The hole cost Phil Mickelson his chance of a fourth Green Jacket last year after his tee shot in the final round ricocheted off the grandstand to the left of the green and dived into the woods. He took two to hack out of the trees, found the bunker and ran up a triple-bogey six.

Sunday's pin position is traditionally front left and Mickelson insists the smartest play is to aim for the grandstand - from where you get a free drop - or the bunker, not the green. On that occasion, he says, he just got unlucky with the bounce.

"What's interesting about that particular shot, with that front pin, is anything short and anything right and anything long right, you can't get it close," he said.

"You have to go into the bunker. If you go into the grandstands, you've got a chip that's right uphill and you're going to get it up-and-down seven out of 10 times. So keep it left. Hit it in the grandstands or the bunker. In the bunker, you're going to make par 80% of the time. Maybe more."

Invariably, the fourth plays straight into the breeze, but like the infamous swirling winds on the 12th, it requires careful study before pulling the trigger.

"You can get a wind switch, like you can on 12, and you can find yourself through the back of that green or coming up short very, very easy," said Ian Poulter. "So a three is a very good score on that fourth."

The 455-yard par-four fifth, arguably the least "Augusta-esque" hole on the course, skirts the far south-west edge of the course with the boundary running down the right-hand side.

Two deep bunkers to the left of the fairway require a carry of 315 yards to cut off the slight dog-leg left, with most opting for position to the right. But it is the second shot that is taxing, to a rolling green with a steep front and a narrow back shelf guarded by a rear bunker. The hole is said to have been inspired by the famous 17th, the Road Hole, at St Andrews.

"It's a difficult target," said Poulter. "The area you're really aiming at is about 15ft by 15ft. If you hit that position, you've got a birdie putt from inside 30 feet to every pin location. It's just very difficult to fly it - you have to fly it 20 yards on that green, and you have to stop it within 30 feet, really, before it drops in that back bunker.

"Again, it's easy to get the wind wrong on that hole. It often plays downwind off the tee and then you stand in the middle of that fairway and it's straight into you. The wind funnels through the trees. It's the stuff of caddie nightmares."

Brown thinks the fifth green is the toughest on the course.

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"You're always trying to salvage a two-putt from an awkward spot and if you get slightly errant on your second you're in three-putt territory," he said. "It's a very tough green to lay the ball dead if you've knocked it more than 15-20ft away."

Turning back into the course, the picturesque 180-yard par-three sixth requires serious attention when she is in the wrong mood. Much like the 13th after you've emerged from the depths of Amen Corner, it can be your friend or your enemy.

From the elevated tee, players hit downhill through a shoot of pines - with the stunning 16th and its pond and banks of azaleas on the right - to a small green sloping from back to front with a cavernous white-sand bunker guarding the entrance. In the 1930s, the green was fronted by a stream and in the 1950s by its own pond, which was removed in 1959.

Although it only ranks as the 13th hardest hole historically, it is a devil when the pin is on the back right shelf, with drop-offs to the right and lengthy, roller-coaster putts for anything short or left.

"The slope of the green is amazing and I've seen some four putts here," said two-time champion Bernhard Langer.

"There's a few holes around that front nine which you've just got to be careful of, especially with a couple of pin locations such as back right on the sixth," adds Poulter.

"That green itself is very, very small and it's easy to make a mistake there. But when that pin location goes front left, all of a sudden that green's 10 times the size, and it's a great birdie opportunity."

They say the Masters doesn't begin until the back nine on Sunday - but you've got to get there in one piece first. Every shot counts, starting on Thursday.

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