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Posted April 13, 2019, 6:50 pm
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Fifth hole's new hole location stops all momentum

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    The fifth green, with its difficult pin placement, during the third round of the Masters. Only one birdie was made there on Saturday. [NIGEL COOK/FOR THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

Benign conditions created a symphony in the sky Saturday at the Masters Tournament as the best golfers in the world discharged an offensive assault on Augusta National, attacking the venerable course in a flurry of subpar scores.

At the fifth green on the layout’s eastern edge, all was quiet.

Sure, the patrons greeted each pairing with respectful applause in the traditional manner. On occasion, they also groaned as another putt went awry.

Yet in the distance and not so far away, the roars bounced and rolled, through the pines and magnolias, echoing off the ponds and filtering among the azaleas. They came from the amphitheaters at 6 and 16. They came from the third and the seventh. They came from around the corner at the second-nine par 5s. They came from across the MacKenzie masterpiece in waves and rushes as the Masters contenders took delight in the soft, calm course - aiming, firing, hitting their targets.

Number 5, on the other hand, yielded one birdie.

At approximately 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon, standing 228 yards from the cup, Keegan Bradley fired an iron shot, landing his ball on the up-slope short of the hole location, tucked in the left side of the green. The ball stopped six feet behind the cup and he rolled in the putt.

It was a devilish debut for the new hole location, 27 yards from the front edge, nestled atop a steep slope, six paces from the left fringe. A hole location that was made available because the club softened the green’s contours when it lengthened the hole by 40 yards since last year’s Masters.

“That was a brutal (hole location),” Masters rookie Andrew Landry said. “I hit a bunch of putts there. For some odd reason it seemed faster in the practice round than it did in the tournament.  I just couldn’t ever get it to the hole. My first putt I felt like I killed it, my second putt I felt like I hit it enough, but it was short.”

Landry was not alone. In the third round, the fifth hole was the most difficult at Augusta National (4.43 stroke average) because the green was by far the most treacherous surface on which to putt. The 37 players fortunate enough to hit the multi-tiered green on the 495-yard behemoth needed an average of 1.969 putts to survive the hole.

“We all knew it was going to be there, it was just when,” Cameron Smith said. “It’s a good thing they’ve done in making the hole longer and also making the green more forgiving. A little bit flatter and they’ve done all the right things. It’s still very important (to get up top) but it’s not as penalizing now if you end up down front.”

After a massive drive, Tony Finau flagged his approach to the ideal location, but left his 20-footer short, on line but a foot short of the cup. The effort produced a brief - and rare - moment of disgust in an otherwise remarkable round of 64.

The players struggled to judge the speed, leaving lengthy birdie tries short as they tried to climb the ridge to the perilous cup. Tiger Woods left an 18-foot par putt short and lightly brushed his putter across the surface as if the slowness surprised him. Kevin Kisner whacked his 75-footer from hole high on the right side and his ball still stopped 15 feet short.

“That was an awesome pin location,” Landry said. “I know they tweaked that left side and that right side a little bit. Great pin location for upcoming Masters events so it’s gonna be really cool to see that.”

The fifth has given the players no quarter, bound to be the most difficult hole in a Masters where birdies and eagles have landed in baskets and bunches. Reaching the green in regulation is never routine. Once the players reached this high point in the heart of the front nine Saturday, the silence around the surface stood out amid the din.