‘Damn near unforgivable’: Pro rips Masters after awkward fan decision

Sandy Lyle, Ken Martin

Sandy Lyle and caddie Ken Martin on Saturday on the 18th green at Augusta National.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jason Kokrak is again questioning the Masters over the send-off of one of its former winners, this time over patrons. 

One day after Kokrak ripped the tournament for not allowing Sandy Lyle to putt out on his final hole in his last-ever Masters after a fallen tree on the 17th tee at Augusta National had suspended play, Kokrak’s ire turned to Masters spectators, or lack thereof. When the horn to resume second-round play was sounded at 8 a.m. Saturday, patrons were being held back at the gate nearest the main leaderboard.

As a result, Lyle hit two putts from 12 feet and finished both the 18th hole and his Masters career in front of about 50 patrons, some of whom were family. The gates were opened shortly after 8, but by the time most patrons reached Lyle’s hole — some were seen running, an Augusta no-no — it was too late. 

“To not have the patrons let in at 8 o’clock to be around that green is — [Kokrak laughed here] — damn near unforgivable,” he told GOLF.com and two other reporters. “I think it’s the most ridiculous thing.”

Lyle, too, was wishful for a bigger moment. 

“Yeah, we saw them sort of stacking up there by the scoreboard, and I thought, any minute now there’s going to be a stampede,” he said. “But, yeah, it would have been nice if probably a few more minutes and I could have — the crowd could have given me a good send-off.”

According to the Masters website on Friday night, the gates were supposed to open at 7 a.m., and it was not entirely clear why patrons were held back. According to a Pinkerton security guard near the entrance by the leaderboard, there was concern over patrons mingling with players working their way back to the holes where they left off, while a security officer shouted to those in line that there were issues over the footing on the course. 

Notably, Lyle did receive a reception, though on his own doing. After he reported to the scoring house, he went back to the 18th green to watch Larry Mize, another former winner playing his last Masters, and the two eventually embraced there, to cheers.    

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All of it came a day after the incident on the 17th tee suspended play. When it was announced, Lyle was 12 feet left of the hole and just off the green, and he, Kokrak and Talor Gooch were approached by an official. 

There was a plea to let Lyle continue — a few patrons also shouted for it — but to no success. Kokrak individually talked to the official on the 18th green, and to another official near the scoring house, before a short interview with GOLF.com. 

“And I think it’s absolutely chicken s**t that they wouldn’t grant a special exemption because they weren’t going to blow the horn except — I mean, I understand that there was a freak accident — trees going down,” Kokrak said. “Thankfully, nobody got hurt. I think that should have been something that could have been something understood by anybody under the umbrella of Augusta National and the rules committee.”

On Saturday, Kokrak said he stood by the comments. 

“To not have a temporary exemption for something like that — I get that the lightning was in the area, but they weren’t going to blow the horn for a few more minutes,” he told GOLF.com and two other reporters. “What did it take us on that hole? Two minutes, maybe? So to not let him tap in a one-footer, or make the 12-footer, I think they could have done something else. But they didn’t seem [to have] urgency, they didn’t seem to care. 

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“So I think it’s something that will be lost. Not so much for him — he’ll remember it forever. I enjoyed my time with Sandy the last couple of days, and I think he should have been able to finish. Especially with the patrons around here. That’s what makes this place so great is the golf IQ of the patrons out here, or the fans that come out to Augusta. Because they knew what was going on and I think they wanted to see him make his last putt.”

Did Lyle say anything to Kokrak or Gooch on 18 on Saturday morning?

“No, he let me be his bodyguard out there so I let people know that needed to know and that’s all you can really do,” Kokrak said. “I wasn’t trying to be mean or anything like that. I was just trying to get my point across that this is something that is history. It’s his last Masters. I think he should have been able to do it. 

“Wasn’t able to.”  

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.