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It’s Masters Week, and with Tiger Woods back in contention alongside perhaps the strongest field in a generation, the 2018 edition shapes up as a must-view. Not that most golf fans would miss it anyway. So, to celebrate the year’s first major, we recount a handful of the greatest shots in Masters history — then show how to hit those shots via great professional instruction from the Golf Tips archives.
Larry Mize, Hole 11 (Playoff), 1987
Mize was the local kid who once worked the scoreboard on the 3rd hole during his favorite tournament. In 1987 played his way into a Masters tee time, and by Sunday his local knowledge had clearly reaped benefits, setting him up in a playoff with two of the game’s greatest names, Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman. Seve bogeyed the first playoff hole, No. 10, to leave the stage, so it was down to The Shark and the virtually unknown Mize as they came to the tee of the downhill par 4 that kicks off Amen Corner and has caused many a pro to bail to the right on his second shot to avoid the pond fronting the green on the left.
That’s exactly what Mize did, only he left the blade of his iron a little too open at impact. His ball came to rest hole-high but some 150 feet to the right, well off the green. He faced a brutal downhill pitch with no margin of error — strike it too strong and it could go all the way to the drink, too light and it would hang above the hole with a nasty downhill putt for par.
So what does he do? Manages one of the finest long pitches of all time, landing the ball on a dime-sized target just short of the green, then rolling it down the hill and into the cup. It was yet another blow to Norman’s chances at a green jacket, which, as we all know, would never materialize. He had a putt from just off the surface to force another playoff hole, but it didn’t happen.
YOUR SHOT: THE LONG PITCH
Sure, the short game accounts 70 percent of a golfer’s score, but even then the type of long, delicate pitch that Mize faced in 1987 isn’t something that most amateurs practice. Putting and shorter pitches and chips seem to take precedence, but this shot turns up more often than we think, simply because high-handicappers just aren’t that accurate on the approach. With that in mind, here are two great lessons on mastering the middle-distance to long pitch. The first, from award-winning PGA teacher Tom Patri, deals with how to be creative and use the wedge’s “bounce” properly, while the second, by Arizona pro Jeff Yurkiewicz, is a detailed guide to the mechanics involved in three different pitches.