The decisive hole? Here’s where the last 8 Masters winners hit it on the par-3 12th on Sunday

tiger woods hits approach on 12

The 12th was a turning point for Tiger Woods in his 2019 win.

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Tucked away in the farthest reaches of Augusta National’s property sits a three-hole stretch as famous as any in golf — Amen Corner. Since Herbert Warren Wind coined the name in 1958, the stretch between the approach on No. 11 and the tee shot on No. 13 has taken on a life of its own, defining winners’ — and losers’ — hopes each and every year.

Each shot in Amen Corner demands respect and precision, but perhaps the most daunting of all remains the slightest in stature: the tee shot on the par-3 12th. With the winds swirling high above, the hole — named Golden Bell — can give competitors fits. And more often than not, it plays a pivotal role in who slips on the green jacket by day’s end.

Fred Couples famously had his chances at a green jacket buoyed on the banks of Rae’s Creek in 1992, while Jordan Spieth infamously had his hopes dashed in a nearly identical spot 24 years later. But long of the green is no good, either. Although you avoid the watery grave short of the green, bunkers and flowerbeds await a shot struck too boldly. The only option for a guaranteed good score is to step up and knock it on the green. Often easier said than done.

With the mythology and strategy of the hole explained, let’s take a look back at how recent winners have fared on the 12th. Here are where the last eight Masters winners hit their Sunday tee shots.

2013 – Adam Scott

Club Selection – 9-iron
Result – Par

The 12th green was not particularly difficult to hit on Sunday of the 2013 Masters (65.6 percent of competitors hit the green on the final day, sixth-most since 1996), as soggy conditions softened the course as play went on, and Adam Scott took full advantage. Chasing his first career major, the Aussie stepped to the 12th tee in solid shape during his final round. He’d made just one birdie and one bogey on the day and stood at six under for the tournament, two shots behind the leader Angel Cabrera.

While Scott was in need of some sort of spark to catch Cabrera on the back nine, he did not get overly aggressive with his 9-iron on No. 12. Instead of firing directly at the flag, Scott fired his shot left and over the bunker, clearing the hazard by a few feet, and skipped his ball onto the putting surface some 25 feet from the hole. Not a spectacular shot, but enough to ensure he took bogey out of play.

The conservative approach paid off for Scott as he cozied up his birdie putt to tap-in range for a stress-free par. From there to the clubhouse, Scott played beautifully as he birdied three of the final six holes to get into a playoff with Cabrera which he would eventually win. His tee shot on the 12th might not be a memorable one, but it kept him in the tournament coming down the stretch. Sometimes conservative is better around Augusta National.

2014 – Bubba Watson

Club selection – Unknown
Result – Par

No. 12 did not play very difficult in relation to par in 2014 with an average score of 3.10 on the final day, but despite the relatively easy scoring, the green was not easy to hit as just 39.2 percent of competitors hit the green in regulation. Bubba Watson continued this trend as he played in the final group alongside Jordan Spieth.

Competing in his first Masters, Spieth had little experience playing the 12th in high-leverage situations. He and caddie Michael Greller were deliberate in their club selection on the hole, but ultimately his 9-iron landed just short of the green and rolled back into Rae’s Creek. It wouldn’t be the last time the 12th stymied Spieth (but more on that later).

Playing quickly after Spieth, Watson did not take much time on club selection and fired a shot directly over the pin and off the back of the green. A massive amount of spin helped his ball work back toward the hole, but he surely would have preferred to be on the dance floor.

Long is obviously better than short on the 12th, but it’s fair to wonder if seeing Spieth’s shot rolling back into the water did not effect Watson’s club selection. Another factor in determining to go over as opposed to short might come from the fact that Watson made a 10(!) on the 12th the year prior. His 9-iron found the water in 2013 — as well as a couple other shots — as he carded double digits. Watson appeared to be determined not to make the same mistake twice.

From his spot long of the green, Watson putted to within a few feet and cleaned up for a par, while Spieth made a crafty up-and-down for bogey. Though it was just a one-shot swing (that could have been much worse), the 12th proved pivotal to the final result as Watson claimed his second green jacket with a three-shot victory.

2015 – Jordan Spieth

Club selection – 9-iron
Result – Bogey

The 12th is not one of Jordan Spieth’s favorite holes. Although he learned his lesson from the previous year and played away from Rae’s Creek, the result was the same — bogey.

No. 12 played a bit harder than normal on Sunday in 2015 with a stroke average of 3.18 and Spieth aided in that average being over par. After seeing his hopes dashed on Amen Corner in 2014, Spieth played away from the flag and toward the center of the green this time around. He appeared to pull the ball a touch long and left, but ultimately found the safety of the putting surface.

But there are lots of ways to make bogeys on the 12th, and Spieth checked another one off the list. His lag putt from the center of the green slid past the hole and his comeback putt lipped out for yet another disappointing 4.

The strategy was correct this time, but the execution just wasn’t there. The nightmare of No. 12 would only get worse for Spieth the following year …

But despite the bogey, it was a non-factor in the ultimate outcome as Spieth claimed his first major title by four strokes.

2016 – Danny Willett

Club selection – Unknown
Result – Par

Nearly 60 percent of competitors hit the 12th green on the final day of the 2016 Masters. Danny Willett was not one of them.

The Englishman took the correct line off the right side of the front bunker, but his yardage was off and he ended up short of the green. He was fortunate his ball did not roll all the way down into Rae’s Creek, but sometimes you need a little luck to win the Masters (just ask Fred Couples). From his position short of the green, Willett chipped to within gimme range and cleaned up with no damage done. Par is always a good score on No. 12.

Jordan Spieth would have loved a par when he came to the 12th half an hour later. Instead, he became an example of what not to do at the par-3 with a lead on Sunday.

Based on his conversations with Michael Greller, it seems as though Spieth was aiming well left of the flag. But his ball did not get anywhere near that aim point, instead finding Rae’s Creek yet again.

Unlike his savvy up-and-down in 2014, Spieth was unable to save bogey this time around. His second ball found the water yet again and his hopes for another green jacket sunk with it.

2017 – Sergio Garcia

Club selection – Wedge
Result – Par

The conservative line on the 12th is somewhere over the right side of the front bunker, but Sergio Garcia got a little too conservative. His tee shot just cleared the bunker and settle on the left side of the green, a hefty distance from the flag.

Luckily for Garcia, there was no harm to his scorecard because of the ultraconservative line. His lag putt ended up within tap-in range and he waltzed to the 13th tee unscathed.

Another quick note: Jordan Spieth found the water again on this Sunday at the 12th. At this point, it seems as though he has a mental block with this tee shot.

2018 – Patrick Reed

Club selection – Wedge
Result – Birdie

The 12th played quite easy on Sunday in 2018, playing to an average of 2.96 for the day with over 50 percent of competitors finding the green in regulation. Patrick Reed helped both of those totals during his march to the green jacket.

Reed famously plays a sweeping draw, which benefits him on a hole setup like No. 12. He can take aim at the flag and let his natural ball flight work it back toward the meat of the green with little worry about finding the water, and that’s just what he did as his ball settled on the back of the green just left of the flag.

With the benefit of a read from his playing partner Rory McIlroy, Reed poured in the birdie putt to take extend his lead back to two on his way to winning his first major. And although he didn’t win, Jordan Spieth was able to exercise his Sunday demons on the 12th, carding a birdie(!) during his charge up the leaderboard.

2019 – Tiger Woods

Club selection – 9-iron
Result – Par

As you know by now, the 12th always plays a significant role in deciding who wins the Masters, but in 2019 it was all the more consequential.

When the final grouping of Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau stepped to the 12th tee, Molinari held a two-stoke lead and looked poised to thwart Woods’ search for major No. 15 yet again. The golf gods had other ideas.

Molinari’s tee shot found the water, and Finau’s did, too. In the group ahead, Brooks Koepka had also hit his tee shot into the water. Seeing all of this unfold, Woods kept a level head and played well left of the flag, taking all danger of Rae’s Creek out of play. The decision paid off.

The two-putt was no guarantee, but Woods did scrap together his par and walked off the green tied for the lead. It proved to be the turning point of the day and one that allowed Woods to claim his fifth green jacket.

“I saw [Brooks Koepka] ended up short,” Woods said after the round. “When I was up there on the tee box and it was about my turn to go, I could feel that wind puff up a little bit, and it had been something. I knew my 9‑iron couldn’t cover the flag, so I had to play left … The mistake Francesco made there let a lot of guys back into the tournament, myself included.”

If there’s anything to learn here, it’s that left of the flag is always the play on Sunday. The risk of finding Rae’s Creek just isn’t worth the potential reward.

2020 – Dustin Johnson

Club selection – Unknown
Result – Par

On Dustin Johnson’s march to his first green jacket, the result of the tournament was never in much doubt during the final round. Once he turned to the back nine, the only remaining threat to his title was a Spieth-like meltdown on No. 12. But like the savvy veteran he is, Johnson played the hole like an old pro.

Johnson stepped to the tee on the 12th and wasted no time as he launched his ball high above the pines before it landed safely in the middle of the green. There was never a doubt the ball would be anything but dry at the end of its journey.

From this safe location 20 feet right of the pin, Johnson two-putted for an easy par and headed for the 13th tee.

And as well as Tiger Woods has played the 12th during his career — including during his 2019 triumph — this Sunday was not so kind. Woods hit three balls in the water during the final round of his title defense, eventually signing for a stunning 10. It was the highest score of his professional career.

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.