The Masters finished with a shocking twist: Everyone left happy except the winner

Max Homa at the 2024 Masters.

Max Homa didn't win the Masters. He left feeling good anyway.

Darren Riehl

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Golf tournaments are typically a zero-sum game. One man’s bogey is another man’s treasure. One man’s good bounce is another man’s misfortune. One man’s victory means another man’s defeat. The bigger the event and the higher the stakes, the more chasmic the gap between winning and losing. It doesn’t help that golfers can be a miserable bunch, tending as they do towards perfectionism, cynicism, dissatisfaction.

Except at the 2024 Masters, where everybody’s leaving happy.

THE TITLE OF MASTERS RUNNER-UP tends to come with a certain melancholy, knowing the heartbreaking proximity of what could have been. But on Sunday that spot belonged to Ludvig Aberg, the 24-year-old Swedish stud who gave away his chance at the win with a double bogey at 11 but battled back fiercely, playing the final six holes in two under par for a final-round three-under 69. He finished four shots behind the winner and three shots clear of everybody else. As he came off the 18th green he was greeted by family and friends like a conquering hero, and with good reason: This was the first major of his career.

It’s difficult to overstate the gravity of Aberg’s showing so I won’t bother. I’ll let him understate it instead; that’s more his style.

“It shows we’re doing a lot of good stuff, and obviously finishing well in the Masters is a dream come true,” he said. “Just playing here has been such a privilege, and I’m super proud of myself and the team and all the work that we’re doing.”

Aberg played in the penultimate pairing alongside Max Homa and when Aberg faltered with seven holes to play, Homa appeared to be the only remaining challenger for Scottie Scheffler. But his tee shot to the ticklish 12th landed just long, took a brutal bounce into the ivy and led to an untimely double bogey.

His hopes of winning the tournament were undone but he steadied the ship on the way home and finished at four under par and a share of third. Homa has been emotional after near-misses in the past but not this time; he emerged from scoring and burst out laughing as his wife Lacey appeared holding their one-year-old son, Cam, who wouldn’t be denied until he’d grabbed hold of one of his father’s wedges.

“It’s bittersweet, I guess,” Homa said a few minutes later, taking a long pause as his tried to sum up his week. “Because I feel accomplished — but I feel like it doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things. But I just feel like I learned. I feel like I took a big leap.”

In recent years Homa has established himself among the best golfers in the world but one big thing has been missing: contention at the majors. This week he handled the pressure of playing alongside Tiger Woods in the first two rounds and the pressure of playing near the lead on the weekend. He didn’t win but he didn’t fold, either. That meant progress.

“I actually think it might calm me down,” he said, asked about pressure at future majors. “I don’t feel like I need to prove anything else to myself. Obviously I would love to prove I can win, but I know I can play in these things well now.”

IT WOULD BE EASY TO FEEL for the man who played beside the man who lapped the field, but the fact that Collin Morikawa played his way into the final pairing on Sunday at the Masters marked a significant step forward for a guy who entered off a MC-T45-T75 run of play. Morikawa changed coaches and changed his equipment and found something special in his game. And despite double bogeys at No. 9 and No. 11, which killed his chance at a win, he bounced back with birdies at 13 and 15 to secure a T3 finish.

“This has been a weird year, but I saw a lot of good this week,” he said. “I think I’m going to use this a lot in this next little stretch of golf, especially since majors, they all come one right after another.”

The only other pro who began Sunday’s final round within five shots of the lead was Bryson DeChambeau, who’d never recorded a top-20 finish at the Masters. He held the first-round lead and faded on the weekend but held onto T6 at two under par alongside fellow LIV golfer Cameron Smith.

“You know what, it was a positive step in the right direction for me out here,” he said. “Learned a lot about my game and knowing that I can do it out here.”

DeChambeau said that he felt something special being in contention at Augusta of all places.

“There was a couple of moments out there where I got the tingles. It’s a weird thing to say. It’s like goosebumps, almost,” he said. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I’m disappointed, but I’m positive. My mindset is really positive.”

FOR CLARITY’S SAKE, not everybody left happy. Not the major champs who missed the cut on a brutal, blustery Friday evening. Not the defending champ, who admitted it was tough to have to stick around post-round to present the jacket to someone else when he’d never really had a chance. And not for Rory McIlroy, the World No. 2 who feels miles from World No. 1.

“I’m close in some ways, but then I feel quite far away in others,” he said.

But it was a satisfying week for nearly everybody else.

For the Augusta National membership, it must have been satisfying to re-coronate such a deserving champion. The World No. 1 winning the world’s biggest event feels well earned. He entered the event as the world’s best golfer and he left no doubt.

For golf fans it was a satisfying week, too, seeing the best players in the world pitted against each other once again. They proved their excitement with massive early-round viewership, too, suggesting that the Masters still reigns supreme.

Heck, even the guy in last place left happy.

“It was a good week,” said Tiger Woods. “It was a good week all around.”

Woods shot 16 over par for the week, two worse than anybody who made the cut. But he warmed up Sunday morning with his son Charlie by his side. And he walked 72 holes at a major championship for just the second time since 2020.

“I think that coming in here, not having played a full tournament in a very long time, it was a good fight on Thursday and Friday,” he said. He also implied that he’s gearing up for a full major season. “I’m going to do my homework going forward at Pinehurst, Valhalla and Troon, but that’s kind of the game plan.”

And don’t forget his playing partner, Neal Shipley, who leaves Augusta as low am.

“Playing with Tiger Sunday at the Masters, the whole week — I think I have to win one of these things to kind of top this week,” he said.

IN A STRANGE TWIST befitting this strange game, the guy who sounded the least satisfied as he wrapped up at Augusta National might have been Scheffler himself. He’d played so well and won by such a wide margin that his competitors figured there was nothing they could have done; that was part of the reason for their collective good cheer. But as he sat in front of the assembled media for his winner’s press conference, the dominant World No. 1 was asked about satisfaction and admitted he hasn’t yet achieved it.

“I feel like playing professional golf is an endlessly not-satisfying career,” he said. “For instance, in my head, all I can think about right now is getting home. I’m not thinking about the tournament. I’m not thinking about the green jacket. I’m trying to answer your questions and I’m trying to get home.

“I wish — I wish I could soak this in a little bit more. Maybe I will tonight when I get home. But at the end of the day, I think that’s what the human heart does. You always want more, and I think you have to fight those things and focus on what’s good.”

Scheffler’s comments spoke to his priorities. He wasn’t unhappy. Not really. He hates losing and he loves winning and he’d just accomplished both. Mostly he was just eager to get home to his wife Meredith as the two await the arrival of their first child in the coming weeks.

But his comments also spoke to the sport he’s currently playing at a higher level than any of his peers. Golf at any level is a game of pursuit. You can always get better, always score lower, always chase down the next guy in front of you. There’s satisfaction in the chase and there’s satisfaction in progress. Imperfection isn’t something to solve completely — it’s the entire point. Scheffler sounded distinctly satisfied with his off-course life if unfulfilled with his on-course accomplishments. Perhaps that’s the sweet spot for greatness.

“I have a long way to go to catch someone like him,” said Xander Schauffele as he wrapped up a T8 finish. “I have a lot of work on my plate, and that’ll continue for quite some time.” He looked excited as he said it. Golfers like to aim at targets. And they like when they come close to hitting ’em, too.

No matter his level of golfing satisfaction, there’s good news for Scheffler — and for the fields eager to chase him down. Another major lurks a month away. Then there’s another major after that, and another after that, and more years and more majors ahead.

They just won’t all have such happy endings.

Dylan welcomes your comments at

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/ The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.

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