AUGUSTA, Ga. - The “patrons” at Augusta National weren’t shouting at Amen Corner during the first round of the Masters, although they made plenty of noise when a player hit a good shot along the treacherous stretch of the 11th, 12th, and 13th holes.
Shouting is discouraged at the decorous Masters, even if the famous Amen Corner name derives from a song that incorporates the term.
The song was Shoutin’ in That Amen Corner. Herbert Warren Wind, for whom the Masters was an opportunity to write long, elegant essays for Sports Illustrated and The New Yorker, first used the term for the holes down in a corner of Augusta National.
Wind, a jazz aficionado, remembered hearing the song, and used it in his April 21, 1958, Sports Illustrated account of Arnold Palmer’s first of four wins in the Masters.
The term stuck.
Baseball has the Green Monster, the tall left-field fence only about 315 feet from home plate at Boston’s Fenway Park. And Augusta National and the Masters have Amen Corner.
Wind didn’t think he’d come up with anything special when he used the name in his article. His nephew, Bill Scheft, a novelist who has also written comedy for late-night talk show host David Letterman, said in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week his uncle used the term in the first paragraph and didn’t refer to it again. He didn’t even explain its origins. Scheft heard him refer to Amen Corner only once, in 1988.
But Amen Corner has become part of Masters lore.
Spectators gather in a large open area from where they can observe the shot into the 11th green, the tee shot and putting on the par-three 12th, and the tee shot and even second shot on the par-five 13th, which runs in the opposite direction to the par-three 12th hole that plays across Rae’s Creek.
Wind meant Amen Corner to signify only the second shot to the 11th, the entirety of the 12th, and the tee shot and second shot on the 13th hole. It’s come to represent the triumvirate, start to finish.
When the wind blows, watch out. And blow it usually does, in strange ways. (Never mind the odd conjunction of a man named Wind coining a term about an area that would become famous for its wind.)
The wind can drive players crazy. The 11th and 12th holes play in the same direction, while the 13th plays in the opposite. Yet, players swear the wind often blows in opposite directions on the 11th and 12th, or the same on the 13th as on the 11th. Go figure. Or not.
“You hear guys saying, ‘Don’t pull a club on 12 until you see both flags on 11 and 12 are moving in the same direction,’” said Tiger Woods, who shot an opening-round 70 on Thursday. “They are never, ever moving in the same direction. I’ve played it so many times where I’ve played 11, 12, and 13 either all downwind or all into the wind.”
The confusion plays on golfers’ minds – which is why they stand on the 12th tee and refuse to hit until they’re certain of the wind direction. But they sometimes don’t reach that point of certainty.
“How does that work?” Woods asked of the wind patterns. “You know, you get down there and Bobby Jones [Augusta National course and Masters tournament co-designer and co-founder] has turned this fan on down there and it swirls.”
But does it?
Sports Illustrated commissioned scientists at the University of Western Ontario in the fall of 2001 to study Amen Corner’s wind patterns. It took them a month to construct a replica of the area around the 12th tee in particular. The tee shot there twists players’ minds and curves their shots in unpredictable ways.
The study showed there’s a wind tunnel in the area. It’s a green monster all its own in the greenery of Amen Corner.
“The visual cues the golfer gets are very misleading,” said David Surry, one of the scientists involved in the UWO study. “The wind can actually come from three different directions, all of which will affect the flight of the ball.”
Wind’s nephew, Scheft, says on his website he lives in Manhattan with his wife and the voices in his head.
At Amen Corner, the wind in the area whose name Wind made famous forces every golfer to live with the voice in his head.
The voice asks: “Well, which way is the wind blowing, anyway?”
Surry’s advice to players was simple. “Hit it and pray.”
Amen to that.