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December 06, 2001

Let us pray
By Dan Patrick

Editor's note: Our own Dan Patrick recently played Augusta National Golf Club. He shot 83-81, not good enough to make the cut at The Masters, but good enough to leave the golfers on The Magazine's staff Augusta-green with envy. Here's his scouting report on a hole that, over the years, has been the turning point of so many Masters.

Amen Corner -- where the 11th green, 12th hole and 13th tee meet at the southeast corner of Augusta National -- got its name when the great golf writer Herbert Warren Wind observed more than 40 years ago that a golfer who successfully negotiates it should say "Amen."

Stay dry on your approach to 11, draw your tee shot on 13 around the bend, and you've completed the easy two-thirds of the "Amen." It's the middle third that turns your knees to limp linguini. The tee shot at the par-3 12th, all 155 yards of it, is the most feared tee shot at Augusta, if not in all of golf.

Chris DiMarco
First-round leader Chris DiMarco negotiates Amen Corner.
There's a lot to look at, mostly to gauge the wind: the flag you're playing to, the tree tops, the flag barely 100 yards away at 11. What you see can be confusing. The target looks comfortably large -- and it is, in fact, 97 feet across. But from the tee you can't see how narrow it is -- 24 feet at its tightest point.

Behind the green? Alcatraz. The left-front bunker gapes, but it's the sharply pitched right side that's deadly. A ball landing there inevitably -- well, almost inevitably -- rolls back down into the water.

Typically, the tree tops sway but the flag is still. Or vice versa. The flag you're playing to whips one way, but the flag on 11 gently waves another. Or vice versa. Get the picture? Unless you're a pro, forget it.

Here's the advice my caddie gave me as we walked up to the 12th tee: "Don't look at the flag, or the trees, or the flag on 11, or the water. Take an extra club, get up there, aim for the fat part of the green and hit it. Don't think about it."

On Day 1, that's what I did. A 7-iron, a little to the right, about 152 yards. Rolled in a 16-footer for birdie. Amen.

On Day 2 ... well, I thought about it. Yesterday was rainy and cold, I thought; today is sunny and breezy. Check the flag. (Tom Weiskopf once made 13 here.) Check the trees. (Tom Watson, on a windless Sunday in 1991, made double-bogey and missed a playoff by ... two strokes.) Check the flag again. (Greg Norman, in '96, the year of The Collapse, was still tied with Nick Faldo when he stuck it in the water and made double-bogey.) Another 7-iron? (Tiger Woods was 3-over on this hole last year.) Maybe an 8-iron? Yes.

No. Yes.

No. My ball landed on the right bank and did what gravity was invented to make it do -- roll back into the water. (Freddie Couples miss-hit his tee shot to exactly the same spot on Sunday in '92, but his ball stayed on the bank and he won a Green Jacket. Go figure.) Penalty stroke, drop, chip, one-putt for a bogey. Amen.

On Sunday at The Masters this year, three things are certain: The pin will be on the right side of the green on 12; Ken Venturi will tell us, "You can't win the tournament here, but you can lose it"; and anyone in the hunt who walks away with a par will whisper to himself: Amen.

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