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The Masters' Amen Corner was a Friday Survival Test, and Not Everyone Did

For a second day, the lengthened 11th was the toughest hole at Augusta National. And the little par-3 12th, on a windy day, was no bargain either.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – An angry Rory McIlroy threw a no-look pass into the pond next to the 11th green, and the only surprise was that the pond did not throw the ball back to him. It was that kind of day at Amen Corner, where the weather was like a lot of the rules at Augusta National: silly, unfair, and completely unbothered by what anybody thinks of it.

At times, the flag on 11 was blowing hard to the left. The flag on 12 – just 150 or so yards away – was blowing hard to the right. The trees to the left of the 11th green were swaying, and the trees behind the 12th tee were also swaying, but the trees behind the 12th green were still. Forget about throwing a few blades of grass in the air to test the wind. You’d do just as well to flip a coin. McIlroy realized that when he walked off the 11th green and a double-bogey and was lucky to not have the honor.

“In a way you're sort of happy to not be the first hitting the tee shot, because at least you can learn from your playing partner's ball and you can see the ball flight and how much the wind affects it,” McIlroy said. “I'm not saying you want to try to make a bogey before every par-3, but in these conditions, it's not a bad idea.”

For the second straight day, the par-4 11th was the toughest hole on the course; the average score there was 4.63. It surrendered two birdies, 36 bogeys, and 10 doubles or worse. The PGA Tour is full of nominal par 5s that are really par 4s. The 11th was a par 4 that played like a par 5. Nobody wanted to hit it anywhere near that pond, so when the wind was at its most severe, most players tried to dump their approaches to the right of the green.

Then there was the 12th. The 12th hole at Augusta National is what the 17th at Sawgrass claims to be. You will not find a better-designed or more harrowing little par 3 anywhere on the planet.

Jordan Spieth arrived at No. 12 at 1 under, in position to possibly win another Masters. He dumped his first shot in Rae’s Creek and then – you’ll never believe this – he had some sharp words for caddie Michael Greller. He and Greller then spent ample time walking off yardages to find the best place for Spieth to hit an awful shot that spun back into the water. He dropped again, landed his fifth shot safely on the green, and slammed his wedge in his bag. Spieth made triple bogey and apparently felt he owed Rae’s Creek another golf ball, because he threw one in there. He missed the cut for the first time in nine Masters.

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Xander Schauffele arrived at the 11th at 4 over, with a solid chance to make the cut. He found the creek and headed home. Bryson DeChambeau also found the creek after miscalculating by a vector or two. This was one of those days that makes you think Augusta National really is a mystical place; how could Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie possibly have known that the wind in a little corner of a parkland course would create such drama?

You could sit in the grandstand by Amen Corner for an hour Friday and not see anybody hit the 11th green or make a full follow-through at No. 12. McIlroy summed it up well, players were “just trying to take the ball out of the air as much as possible. But the greens are getting firm as well, so then it makes it hard to stop it on the green.”

Brooks Koepka hit what looked like a lovely checked-swing shot at 12, then watched his ball land in the woods before rolling into one of the back bunkers. As Koepka turned to caddie Ricky Elliott, he had a “Where did I put my wallet?” look.

Two-time champion Bubba Watson said, “When you get down No. 10, it's hard to tell which way it's coming from because in the trees, it bounces around.” He striped a drive on 11, and then found the pond and made double bogey. Collin Morikawa, probably the steadiest iron player in the world, said, “It's a lot of guessing, a lot of just trusting what you are going to do … it's weird.”

Scottie Scheffler chuckled and poured himself a nightcap. Well, not really. But through two days, Scheffler is 8 under par, five shots clear of the field. He is the No. 1-ranked player in the world. He is also the only player in the top 20 who birdied the 12th in each of the first two rounds. He also made par on No. 11 twice. Amen Corner has not taken a bite out of him. Yet.

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