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Amen Corner, where Masters prayers are answered

A sign points the way to the famed Amen Corner as patrons watch a practice round for the 2009 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta Nationa
A sign points the way to the famed Amen Corner as patrons watch a practice round for the 2009 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta Nationa

By Steve Keating

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - It is a place where dreams come true for both golfers and fans alike the place where Australian prayers were answered on Sunday.

It is, as the old-timers say, where the four-day Masters tournament really begins in Sunday's final round, the place where green jackets are won and lost.

It is a breathtaking piece of golfing real estate, an iconic stretch featuring holes 11, 12 and 13 that is tucked away in the far corner of Augusta National Golf Club and where reputations are often made and destroyed.

It is Amen Corner.

"I don't know that it's a great conglomeration of holes. I think it's a great conglomeration of circumstances," explained six-times Masters champion Jack Nicklaus. "They are all great holes, don't get me wrong, because I like all three of them.

"But the thing is, you have got everybody and your brother there watching you play.

"People can sit there and watch you play all three holes from one location, and it's just become such a great focus, not many places in golf that you can do that."

With its dastardly tricky winds and the water of Rae's Creek ready to swallow up misjudged shots, Amen Corner can produce plenty of thrills and spills as Kevin Na and defending champion Bubba Watson discovered on Sunday as both carded 10s at the par-three 12th.

But the real drama came later in the day when the leading pairs made their way in puring rain around White Dogwood (par-four 11th), Golden Bell (par-three 12th) and Azalea (par-five 13th).

Tiger Woods launched a back nine charge with a birdie at 10, followed by a spectacular shot from the trees to salvage par at the 11th. Another birdie at 13 and suddenly the world number one was at four-under and back in the title chase.

The Australian challenge that had stalled suddenly picked up pace at Amen Corner when Adam Scott birdied the 13th, then went on to beat Argentina's Angel Cabrera in a high-quality playoff to give his golf-mad country its first Masters win.

"To be in the thick of it, to feel that excitement, to feel that pressure, to grace Amen Corner knowing you need birdies and trying to win a green jacket, that is the greatest thrill a golfer can possibly experience," said Mickelson, a three-times Masters champion.

THUNDERING CHEERS

It was the great American golf writer Herbert Warren Wind, searching for a way to describe the trio of holes, who coined the name Amen Corner in 1958.

Wind would later reveal that the moniker came from the title of a jazz album he had liked called "Shouting in that Amen Corner" and fans have been roaring there ever since.

The thundering cheers from 'Amen Corner' have over the decades provided the Masters sound track.

While Augusta National is often referred to as the 'Cathedral of Pines,' Amen Corner is where thousands come to worship each year on the final day of the year's first major.

When the gates to Augusta National swing open, patrons (who are forbidden from running on the Augusta grounds by an army of security staff) briskly make their way to the outer boundaries of the world's most exclusive golf club and stake their claim to small patches of grass or a grandstand seats.

They then wait patiently for hours for the first golfers to appear.

While the on-course hospitality suites that dot nearly every other major golf tournament are not allowed at the Masters, Amen Corner is such a hot piece of property that enterprising companies hire helpers, load them up with folding chairs and send them early in the morning to grab the very best front row positions.

Caddies have also been known to set up a few chairs for family and friends while two men told Reuters their wives had come out to early to claim the coveted spots.

Amen Corner is a place of idyllic beauty but danger lurks at every turn as Cabrera found out when his second shot at 13 ended up in Rae's Creek and he wound up with a bogey to drop back into a tie for the lead with Australians Scott and Jason Day.

Masters history is full of 'Amen' moments penned by some of golf's legendary figures like Byron Nelson, who surged through the turn in 1937 with a birdie and eagle at 12 and 13 en route to the claiming the winner's green jacket.

"If you don't pay it the respect that it deserves, they will bite you with a double," said Mickelson. "I think that's what's so interesting is that you look at it on the surface, you need to make birdies if you're going to win. You expect to make birdies on 13 and so forth.

"But, if you don't give those shots respect, it bites you with a double. Especially 11.

"That's the thing about Amen Corner is the respect that it demands."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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