AUGUSTA, Ga. - Anyone going flag hunting today at Augusta National will do so at great risk. The competition committee has tucked the pin placements close to the edges on most holes, meaning a shot not off by very much could still leave an extremely difficult short-side pitch coming back to save par. Thirteen of the cups are cut six paces or less from the edge of the green.
Only No. 5 (middle back), No. 9 (which is right above the false front), No. 14 (above the right hump), No. 15 (back right) and No. 17 (center front) have some wiggle room on the approach shot. Nos. 2, 4, 11 and 12 have holes cut a mere four paces from the edge of the green.
This is probably good news for Westwood and Mickelson. The hidden flags reduce the chance of a low number by one of the leaders -- specifically Tiger Woods. Woods has never shot lower than 68 in the final round of the Masters -- a score he will at least need today to catch Westwood and Mickelson -- and has a final-round Masters scoring average of 70.85.
If Woods tries to be overly aggressive early that may turn out to be a mistake. He has played the first seven holes at Augusta national a cumulative one over par this year and the final 11 holes nine under par. He needs to stay patient an assume that any significant move he makes will come on the back nine. The first seven holes have only one hole ct more than six paces from the edge - No. 5.
Bottom line? The hole locations likely mean Westwood and Mickelson are in a situation where they can be conservative and try to match pars and still have the tournament decided in the final twosome, as has been the case in 18 of the last 19 Masters.
-- Ron Sirak