Putting at Augusta National a Daunting Task

12:30 PM, Apr 6, 2013   |    comments
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Zach Johnson says you don't try to make putts at Augusta National.

"You try to lag them, and if they go in, they go in," the 2007 Masters winner said. "I mean, those greens are just extremely difficult. Even when they are wet, they're still fast, and everything breaks to No. 11 green. You just have to be on your toes on every single putt you ever have in the Masters."

Phil Mickelson, winner of the Masters in 2004, 2006 and 2010 and one of the best putters the game has ever seen, says you "float" the ball toward the hole in hopes of making a putt on the undulating greens.

Brandt Snedeker, one of the best putters in professional golf at the moment, equates putting during the Masters to putting in a bathtub.

And Ben Crenshaw, a winner in 1984 and 1995 who used the flat stick as well as anyone in history, says you need a lifetime - and then even more time - to figure out the greens at Augusta.

"You just can't spend enough time on the greens," Crenshaw says. "There is always, always something to learn about those greens. As much ink and as much consideration as the long game gets at Augusta National, the little shots around and on the greens are absolutely a game changer."

The 18 greens get their pitch and movement from the rolling terrain. Adding to the puzzlement is a SubAir system, which uses heating coils, blowers and pipes underneath every green to allow the green temperature and moisture levels to be monitored. If Masters officials determine the greens are too slow, they can pump out moisture to ensure they arrive at the beloved speed tournament officials want.

And the elevation change of the course, the drop from the highest point (the back right of the green on the first hole) to the lowest point (Rae's Creek guarding the 11th, 12th and 13th holes) is 175 feet and has a major impact on the movement of putts.

So much so that a board in the caddie's hut has drawings of every single green and a large dot signaling where Rae's Creek is in relation to the green. Further, every yardage book features arrows on each of the drawings of the putting surfaces, indicating which direction the green breaks toward Rae's Creek.

Yet players are still puzzled.

"You can have all the information you need, and you'll look at a putt, know where Rae's Creek is, think you know how it will break, and it will go the exact opposite," Jason Day says. "The greens aren't tricked up. They're just plain hard. In good weather they run 14 on the Stimpmeter, and that's pretty scary. You try to keep yourself below the hole at all times. If you happen to do that, that's great. If not, then you're kind of screwed."

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