AUGUSTA, Ga. – Sometimes Augusta National Golf Club makes a monkey out of players with its tight lies and slick greens, but Ernie Els would not be high on the list of candidates.
Twice, in 2000 and 2004, he was the runnerup here. Six times he has finished in the top-10.
Yet there the four-time major champion was Thursday, tapping putts back and forth past the cup until he had used six shots on the green, and all from close range.
The shocking result was the worst score in Masters history on the par-4 opening hole, a big fat 9.
In fact, the Masters committee member scoring the hole had trouble staying up with all those putts. The unofficial information originally radioed in to the scoring center counted seven putts by Els and a total of 10 shots at the hole, which is the number that showed up immediately on the scoreboard and stayed there all afternoon.
Once Els finished his round and signed his scorecard, he corrected the number. It was only six putts. Merely terrible, not toxic.
Either way, the last few putts were careless drags in the direction of the cup without even bothering to take a stance. It’s what the rest of us do when we think a putt should be conceded as good.
Clearly, Ernie wasn’t in the mood to grind it out at that point, though he did manage to settle himself a bit with a couple of pars, a bogey and a birdie on the next four holes. His final score was 80, which represents the kind of major rally that only a seasoned pro could manage.
The rest of us would have been more likely to pick up and walk off the course after that opening fiasco, or at least faked an injury.
There were other scores worse than 80, too, including an 81 by current Tour pro Robert Streb, an 82 by Ian Woosnam, one of the Masters’ creaky returning champions, and an 83 by amateur Paul Chaplet.
Here is the list of worst scores ever recorded on each hole at Augusta National.
No. 1 – 9, Ernie Els, 2016
No. 2 – 10, David Duval 2006 most recently
No. 3 – 8, Douglas Clarke, 1980
No. 4 – 8, Henrik Stenson, 2011
No. 5 – 8, Jerry Barber 1964 most recently
No. 6 – 7, Arnold Palmer 1997 most recently
No. 7 – 8, Richard Von Tacky 1981 most recently
No. 8 – 12, Frank Walsh, 1935
No. 9 – 8, Luke Donald 2014 most recently
No. 10 – 9, Danny Lee, 2009
No. 11 – 9, Charles Howell III 2006 most recently
No. 12 – 13, Tom Weiskopf, 1980
No. 13 – 13, Tommy Nakajima, 1978
No. 14 – 8, Nick Price, 1993
No. 15 – 11, Ignacio Garrido 1998 most recently
No. 16 – 11, Herman Barron, 1950
No. 17 – 7, Fred Couples and Ted Potter 2013 most recently
No. 18 – 8, Henrik Stenson 2012 most recently
Add it all up and it’s 167, which is what I would shoot out here on a good day.
You’ll notice that Henrik Stenson shows up twice on this list of all-time worst single-hole performances. He also has five top-25 Masters finishes and opened his Thursday round with a front-nine 35.
Sometimes it’s all or nothing at Augusta National, but usually the high scores come from true disasters in the lakes or the woods. For Els to run up so many strokes on one green is truly extraordinary.