The greatest Masters shots, and how you can pull them off

March 27, 2015

You’ve seen or read about these masterstrokes more times than you can shake a pine needle at. Now here’s how to play them. Warning: results may vary — talent not included.


Year: 2010, final round

The hole: 13th

Degree of difficulty: 7 out of 10

THE SHOT: With two pine trees, a creek, and 207 yards between him and the hole, Mickelson delivered a towering 6-iron off the pine needles through the trees to four feet. It was vintage Lefty, and one of the gutsiest shots ever played. Phil missed the ensuing eagle putt, but the birdie propelled him to a 67 (his third of the tournament) and his third green jacket.


For success off pine needles (or any situation that calls for ball-first contact) set up with the ball slightly back in your stance. Then make a swing that’s dominated by upper-body movement. Your legs should be passive to avoid slipping on the needles as you swing.

To hit through a tight window, use your mind to free up your motion. Threading the needle is also about positive thinking. Follow these steps:

1. Use the narrow target to focus your concentration rather than letting it distract you.

2. Think only about shooting the ball through the gap, not what might happen if you hit one of the obstacles.

3. Go through your normal routine, take one last peek through the window, and go.


Year: 2005, final round

The hole: 16th

Degree of difficulty: 7 out of 10

THE SHOT: Trailing Chris DiMarco, Woods knocked his tee shot over the green, where it came to rest against the collar of the first cut of rough. After surveying the situation, he opted for a low, spinning pitch, landing the ball well above the hole. The ball bit and then trickled down to the cup, hanging briefly on the lip before dropping in. The crowd, and Tiger, erupted. Woods beat DiMarco in a playoff.


Touch shots like this require both tremendous imagination and solid mechanics. Follow these steps:

1. From behind the ball, survey the terrain and pick a spot where you think the ball will have to land to get close to the hole.

2. Walk the path from the ball to your spot and closely examine the green between the landing area and the hole. This will give you a good idea of exactly how hard to strike the ball and how it will react when it lands.

3. Go back to the ball and play the shot in your mind’s eye. Once you have a clear picture, don’t dillydally — just hit it. Play the ball back, keep your hands ahead of the clubhead, and pinch down on the ball.


Year: 1987, final round

The hole: 11th

Degree of difficulty: 9 out of 10

THE SHOT: Larry Mize and Greg Norman reached the second hole of a sudden-death playoff. Norman hit his approach shot to the edge of the green, while Mize sprayed his second some 150 feet right and long of the green. Norman looked destined to win his first green jacket until Mize bounced his third shot onto the green and into the hole. When a shaken Norman missed his birdie attempt, Mize won his first and only major championship.


When you find yourself well off the green with fairway or any mown area between you and the hole, the safest shot is a bump and run. Play the ball back in your stance and place most of your weight on your left side. This setup will help you hit the ball crisply on the way down and decrease the chance of blading or chunking the shot. Once you’re set up correctly, pick your landing spot while visualizing the run of the ball all the way up to the hole. Hit the shot like you would a lag putt, simply trying to get it close.


Year: 1986, final round

The hole: 17th

Degree of difficulty: 8 out of 10

THE SHOT: At age 46, Jack Nicklaus made a monumental back-nine charge, shooting a 30 that featured an eagle-birdie-birdie stretch on 15, 16, and 17. The round featured several clutch shots, but the tricky 12-footer he holed for birdie on 17 most resonates. After parring the 18th and carding a 65, Nicklaus watched as Tom Kite, Norman and Seve Ballesteros faltered to give Jack his sixth green jacket.


When confronted with a must-make putt, don’t get hung up in the moment. Stick to a simple routine, making a definitive choice when you read the line and speed. If your nerves are jumping, take the small muscles in your hands, wrists and arms out of your stroke. Make some practice strokes in which you drive the putter with the rocking of your shoulders and torso only. This will help you to relax your hands and arms and get the ball moving on the right line and at the correct pace.


Year: 1935, final round

The hole: 15th

Degree of difficulty: 10 out of 10

THE SHOT: Gene Sarazen’s historic hole-out for double eagle went a long way toward helping popularize the Augusta National Invitational, aka The Masters. Sarazen was torn between hitting a 3-wood or a 4. He pulled the latter. The result was a blistering shot that flew some 235 yards, cleared a greenside pond and dropped into the hole. The deuce tied Sarazen for the lead with Craig Wood, and he went on to win the only 36-hole playoff in Masters history.


To rip a fairway wood high and long, try the following:

1. Set up with your head slightly behind the ball and your right shoulder a bit lower than normal. This position will help you create a high-trajectory shot that lands softly.

2. Turn a bit further behind the ball than you would normally (move away from the target a bit in your backswing).

3. Stay behind the ball through impact. These three simple adjustments will create a high, soft ball flight and allow you to hit and hold the green.