What do you associate the 15th hole at Augusta National with? It could be anything. Everything. It’s one of several iconic holes at the Masters that had decided a good number of green jackets.
Last year was no different. It ultimately probably decided the champion of the 83rd Masters. Francesco Molinari hit a ball in the water on No. 15 and essentially lost the tournament. Tiger Woods made a birdie on No. 15 and essentially won the tournament. Everyone remembers the 12th hole (where Molinari also hit a ball in the water), but it was the 15th where, for the first time the entire week, it became very clear that Woods was about to win the fifth Masters of his career.
Molinari and Woods went to No. 15 tied at 12 under. Woods birdied, Molinari doubled. Tiger left with a three-stroke lead over his playing partners. In fact, Woods was the only golfer on the day who walked off the 15th green at 13 under or better. Everybody else was 12 under or worse. Of course, Woods nearly aced the par-3 16th and that was all she wrote, but it was that shot into No. 15 that he said was his best of the week.
“The most pure shot that I hit was the second shot into 15,” he said when I asked him which shot he remembers most from 2019. “Just through the forest, straight up in the air and turned it over. The shot I hit on 16, yes, that was a nice shot, and it ended up in a really good spot, but the best shot I hit all day was the second shot into 15.”
You can watch that shot right here in Augusta National’s catalog of every shot hit during the 2019 Masters. It leads to a two-putt birdie for Woods and that 13-under number, the eventual winning score. His answer surprised me. I thought he would talk more about the shot on No. 16 that almost fell. But he waxed poetic about No. 15 instead.
However, Woods didn’t think the tournament was over after he birdied No. 15 or after he birdied No. 16. No, he said that it wasn’t until his chip on No. 18 from 40 yards to 14 feet — where he needed to two-putt for the win — that he knew he was going to wear green later that afternoon.
“Once I hit that pitch up on the green, the tournament was over,” he said. “When I was walking up on the green, to see my family and friends there through the chute, I started to get a little bit emotional and I had to rein it back in and say, ‘Hey, it’s not quite over yet. I’ve had this putt before. Let’s go ahead and make this putt.’ To be honest with you, once I knocked that pitch shot on the green, that tournament was over.”
It was fascinating to hear from Woods both which shot was his best shot and when he knew the event was done. I would have bet a lot of money that one of those answers would have been the tee shot on No. 16, which he almost holed for a one.
There are so many memories when it comes to Tiger and Augusta National, and several more were created in 2019. However, it’s Woods who magnifies these memories, who blows up the ones that are truly important. So while the 16 near-ace is the one I’ll remember for forever, I now have a greater appreciation for what he did the hole before it and two holes after it as he improbably won the 15th major of his career.