AUGUSTA, Ga. — Butler Cabin. The Crow's Nest. The Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer plaques. The Hogan, Nelson and Sarazen Bridges. Augusta National has a bevy of monuments on its venerated property. On Friday evening, the newest landmark was installed on the 14th.
To the left side of the hole, to be exact. That's where an overzealous security guard accidentally caught the back of Tiger Woods' foot after Woods hit his second shot from the pines, briefly sending the 43-year-old stumbling and the golf world into cardiac arrest. Yet Woods avoided injury and the sport exhaled, catching its breath long enough to shout after Woods' buried his ensuing birdie putt. It was a moment that became an instant classic, one that received another coat of sepia when Woods birdied the 15th. Woods, at the tournament that made him famous more than two decades ago, was officially back.
And because of Tiger's rabid following, the "Slide heard 'round the world" has turned into a shrine.
The first twosome of the day, Eddie Pepperell and marker Jeff Knox, hadn't made the turn, yet the 14th had already seen its share of visitors on Saturday morning, which may be a first in tournament history. Many patrons will travel down to Amen Corner, and seating at the 15th and 16th fills up quickly on the weekend. The 14th, however, is known for … well, being the least exciting hole on the side. It's 440 yards uphill, and not particularly easy to birdie, yet par can be had with relative easy. The most notable thing about it is what it doesn't have, a bunker, the only hole on the course without one. To patrons, its primary function is as a passageway from Amen Corner to the rest of the property.
Until now, that is. A group of Aussies, beers in tow, congregated around the ground as if a UFO had crashed landed. A kid grabbed a few blades of grass like he was bottling water from Lourdes. Two Class A teaching pros, Kyle Schafer and Spencer Stillman of Fort Myers, Fla., kept looking at the spot, then through the pines, back to the spot, up at the pines again, finally shrugging in disbelief.
"It was scary, then funny, then, 'Holy ****, he made the putt,'" said Schafer, 24. Added Stillman: "Not sure I could throw a pebble and make it through without catching pine."
That seemed to be the recurring sentiment from the patrons. Like most landmarks, to say they saw it—"If he wins, this will be where everyone remembered it happen, and I want to say I was there too," said James Logan of Houston—spurred their pilgrimage. But once they arrived, the sheer audacity, and execution of the shot, confounded all.
"He must have saw a window we aren't seeing," Schafer said. "Because I don't know how the hell you can put a ball from here to there. I guess that's why he's Tiger Woods."
Of course, there are similar "How'd he hit that?" spots at Augusta National, such as Bubba Watson's wedge from no man's land on the 10th from the 2012 Masters, or Phil Mickelson's second from the straw at the 13th during the 2010 tournament. This locale is different, however, in that there was a viral aspect to it aside from the shot itself. There were memes and memes, jokes on jokes. "Tiger" was trending on Twitter, a trend not prompted by his position on the leader board.
That would be due to our aforementioned friend in uniform. A host of volunteers on Saturday, who were doing their best to show patrons where, precisely, Woods' miraculous shot took place, spoke about Friday's affair. Two volunteers could not comment on where that guard is today, but everyone working the scene appeared to take the stumble in stride.
"We were giving a few of the gallery workers charged with holding the patrons back some grief this morning," said Glenda Lee. "'You almost hurt Tiger, how could you!' They took it well."
Another volunteer, who asked not to be named, confirmed the story. "Their response was pretty great: 'Yeah, you wanted us to hold back the security guard with the weapon. How would that have worked out?'"
Lee, who was on the 14th tee box when the slip-n-slide went, um, down, said it was one of the strangest sounds she's heard at Augusta. "You heard this 'huzaah,' then an 'Ohhhh' then a cheer again," Lee said. "I think of lot of people didn't know what happened til they got home at night."
Chalk that up to the club's no cellphone policy. A fact, along with the restriction of cameras during tournament days, that a handful of patrons didn't remember until the moment when wanting to capture the spot.
Which, to Schafer and Stillman, was just fine.
"I can watch the video [of the moment] anytime," Schafer said. "I don't need a photo to say I was here. I'm just glad I can say I did. Everyone at my club is going to be jealous. He did the unthinkable."
Schafer's right. Tiger pulled off the unthinkable: He made the 14th interesting.