AUGUSTA, Ga. – Golden Bell. Such a gentle name. Such a massive pain.
Quaint and cozy at just 155 yards, it might as well be 1,155 for all the challenge it provides. Though it doesn’t have the muscle that so many other Augusta National Golf Club holes have, it ranks as the third-toughest in the history of the Masters, a 3.28 field average for 77 years worth of tournaments.
The greatest par 3 in the world? A long line of folks would agree, and in the first round of the 2014 Masters it did nothing to damage its reputation.
Brandt Snedeker did nothing to improve his feel for the hole, either.
Almost laughingly, Snedeker explained his dilemma when he stepped to the tee. He was 2 under on his round, having bogeyed the par-4 11th, and he got a good study of things after playing competitor Jamie Donaldson went first.
“He hit a pretty 8-iron,” said Snedeker, who assessed his shot off of what the man from Wales had done. And?
“I hit one almost into Augusta Country Club, 30 yards over the green.”
Which means what?
“I got no clue.”
Though Snedeker salvaged bogey at the 12th and came home in a respectable 2-under 70, he joined a parade of others who got knocked back by the tiny hole. Adam Scott among them.
The defending champion had a few goose-bump moments, most notably as he walked from the 11th green to 12th tee. “(It) will stick with me forever,” said the Aussie. “Everyone getting out of their seats as I approached there. It was great.”
Shake of the head.
“Then I went and hit it in the water.”
Scott was 4 under and in the lead at the time, but it proves how one cannot let up for even one moment at Augusta National.
“I just lost a little focus on that shot and didn’t commit fully and paid a price on that one,” said Scott.
Snedeker had been caught by a swirling wind (“It changed 15 times today,” he said), but Scott conceded his was more a physical error.
“It’s just that back right pin spot,” said Scott. “I wasn’t even paying attention to (the hole location) and it still got me. I wasn’t trying to hit it over there.”
Playing a 9-iron, Scott didn’t quite get it and concedes it was “a weak shot,” the first time he’s ever hit it in that creek. In fact, Scott had played the 12th hole in a 3.05 average for his 44 rounds prior to yesterday, with six birdies, eight bogeys, and 30 pars. The good is, it was his only weak shot of the day. Elsewhere he played solidly, shot 3-under 69, and sits one off the lead.
Bill Haas jumped to the lead at 4-under 68 and was one of those who made par at the 12th. But for the bulk of the day, it created chaos. While there were six birdies (Dustin Johnson, Billy Horschel, Kevin Stadler, Angel Cabrera, Ernie Els, Keegan Bradley), there were that many double-bogeys and three more triples (Branden Grace, Ben Crenshaw, Jordan Niebrugge).
For the round, the 12th averaged 3.423 to rank second most difficult, behind the par-4 11th (4.474). It was the toughest No. 12 played since Round 2 in 2009, when 11 double-bogeys and three triple-bogeys contributed to a 3.490 field average.
“It’s just playing tough,” said Snedeker.