Field posts 10 eagles at Augusta's 15th hole
AUGUSTA, Ga. AUGUSTA, Ga. — Firethorn – the par-5 15th hole at Augusta National – is not exactly a pitch-and-putt hole, but it was playing as easy as you could ask for in the first round of the 77th Masters.
At 530 yards, the 15th played downwind most of the day with only three bogeys and gave almost every player an opportunity to reach the downhill hole in two shots -- no matter their age.
Playing together, Ian Woosnam, 55, and Kevin Na both eagled the 15th early. That seemingly opened the floodgates for eight other players -- Rickie Fowler, David Toms, Steve Stricker, Michael Thompson, Ted Potter Jr., Robert Garrigus , Ernie Els, Steve Stricker and Matteo Manassero-- to follow suit later in the day.
It took Woosnam, the 1991 champion, 75 rounds before he recorded his first eagle at the 15th hole. He wasn't the only one who found the green's accessibility an unusual perk.
“One of the few times I've been able to go for that green in competition in recent years,” said Toms, one of the shortest players in the field. “So I guess I made the most of it. I hit a 3-hybrid there. I don't know what the total was; I hit it just over the back of the green and putted in from the fringe. So it was nice to pick up an extra shot there.”
Since 1942, Firethorn has been the easiest hole at Augusta National with a stroke average of 4.78 -- the low in 1991 at 4.505. In Thursday’s first round, the stroke average at the 15th was only 4.3055 – with 84 percent of the players hitting the green in regulation and recording 43 birdies with the 10 eagles.
“It's playing downwind,” Tom Watson said of the 15th. “So it's very accessible. You can land it in the middle of the green and you're going downwind with it. I think I hit a hybrid in there, a 2-hybrid in there. These kids are hitting probably 6-irons.”
Watson was right, with Na hitting 6-iron, Garrigus with 7-iron, Cabrera an eight and Phil Mickelson 9-iron into the 15th.
“Driver, 7-iron to about 7 feet and made eagle,” Garrigus said matter of factly. “It was a pretty easy putt, just on the edge.”
“Today with that flag, that's really nice of them,” Els said tongue-and-cheek of the hole location of 20 from the front and six from the right, effectively taking the pond out of play. “You know, to see the flag back right with a little bit of breeze behind us, I mean, that's just beautiful. Two good shots there, you can putt for eagle.