Last November we saw a change to the Sunday pin at 16, now we have our old friend back but with familiarity it breeds some contempt
Having a November Masters, as welcome as it was, was still plain weird. On a slightly smaller scale the pin location of the 16th was a bit of a head muncher. The usual pin, 30 yards on and 4 from the left, has sat there for decades but was gone six months ago.
Instead we had a pin 31 on and four from the right, up on the top shelf, and, in a flash, the drama was gone. The general play was to hit a conservative shortish iron to the middle of the green, watch the slope that we’re all so familiar with take the ball to the bottom of it and then the players would two-putt for a collection of routine pars.
For so many years it’s thrilled and bored us as we’ve watched a variety of tee shots locate the funnel and then the ball will routinely make its way down towards the hole. Occasionally, like Sandy Lyle in 1988 and Tiger Woods 17 years later, a player will overshoot the green but their skills will then dazzle and they will still walk away with a birdie two.
Back in the day the 16th measured 145 yards and was protected by just a small stream in front of the green and the tee was to the right of the 15th green. Then, after WWII, Robert Trent Jones moved the tee, built the pond and positioned the green diagonally.
His son Robert Trent Jones Jr said: “Sixteen is one of his great pieces of golf art, the highest accolade you can pay in our business. There are lots of wonderful courses but only a few that when you walk in, like a Monet painting, you feel like you’re in the garden.”
Related: The Masters Leaderboard
These days it’s now only 25 yards longer but it’s served up all manner of treats and mischief over the years.
Its beauty might be in its timing, coming 70 holes in, rather than the hole itself. You can get wet at the 12th and you can rectify things at 13 and 15, make a mess of 16 and you then face a couple of tricky par 4s.
With the pin cut left not one champion since 2008 has dropped a shot at 16 on Sunday – 13 years ago Trevor Immelman made a double bogey – and five of the past 12 winners have made a birdie. Think Tiger in 2019.
Another strange feature of this pin is that, while you can nearly hole the tee shot, to hole a putt from the flat part of the green is almost impossible. Fair play to Danny Willett.
On the other hand it’s also a bit of a nonsense for the 70th hole of a major. Every year we get a collection of holes-in-one, one year we had the very odd sight of Louis Oosthuizen making an ace, getting a kindly ricochet off JB Holmes’ ball that was queuing up in the slot.
Then we’ve had Alex Noren making his two after finding sand and then using the backstop to feed her back down and in.
Having the back-left pin back is like welcoming back an old friend, if an utterly predictable one. We know what he’s going to say and how he’s going to act but it wouldn’t be the same without them.