Xander Schauffele birdied the 12th hole. And the 13th. And the 14th. On the par-5 15th at Augusta National, after Schauffele hit a drive down the fairway, and Hideki Matsuyama, the player now four strokes ahead of him during the final round of this year’s Masters, piped one, too, Schauffele’s caddie, Austin Kaiser, looked his player’s way.
“Austin looks at me and goes, this is it, this is our only chance,” Schauffele said on this week’s episode of the Subpar podcast. “And I go, what do you mean? And he goes, he hit a good drive, he’s going to go for the green. I’m like bulls***.
“And Austin goes — not that, trust me, my caddie’s the least guy I want to fluff right now — he goes, this is the only shot we have. And he goes, if he hits a really good shot, screw it, we lose the tournament, you know what I mean — we don’t have enough time to come back. But he’s like, you know how hard this shot is into this green right now?”
Very, on this Masters Sunday. Kaiser was correct. Matsuyama went for the green, knocked it over and made a bogey 6 — while Schauffele birdied the hole (and nearly eagled it), and the lead was now two heading to 16.
Matsuyama’s advantage would stay that way after the par-3, too — though it was now over Will Zalatoris.
Schauffele, disastrously, triple-bogeyed the hole, after hitting his tee shot short, left and into the water beside the green, then hitting his drop over the green. He’d eventually finish tied for third. But as he recounted the hole on Subpar, Schauffele said he hit a “perfect shot” off the tee.
“So many guys from 2019 told me that same pin, similar feeling wind, the hole always plays shorter, and I hit 7-iron in 2019, and I hit it long, and I had the sketchiest two-putt of my career,” Schauffele said. “… And so I’m sitting there like, I need to birdie this hole, guys. Like we’re trying to hit it just right of the pin, no biggie, wind’s down left to right, I’m like, I like 8. It was going about 180 for me out in Georgia, and so the pin was like 190; I can’t remember what it was — 190 something.
“And of course, as I hit, I hit kind of like a trap draw, which is what I do when I hit it hard, and the wind kind of went very across or almost into and then we’re sitting there, I was like, oh, boy, here we go. And so I hit a perfect shot.”
It’d fall short and into the water. Then on the drop nearby, he’d hit long and over the green.
“It was funny, when I dropped in the drop zone, we had a 9-iron out from 152 or something, and I hit a 9-iron that flew back edge; it flew like 164,” Schauffele said on Subpar. “And so, after the round, Austin took it really hard on himself, but I told him, I was like, dude, we got the wind wrong, but we were half-correct. Because the reason I was able to — I was really upset, but the reason I was able to sleep on it OK was, the 9-iron went downwind. The wind was swirling. It wasn’t like me and him had complete blank moments; we F’d it up, you know what I mean.”
Two months later, would Schauffele have changed anything? Yes and no.
“If I had to do one thing different, I would have cut a 7 in there,” Schauffele said on Subpar. “I think going with the wind is the big key, not fighting on that hole. The worst case is you bail out right. But you look at Hideki, he freaking hit it right, on that tier, and he three-putted. So I knew if I bail out to the right, I’m not pressing this tournament, you know.
“Overall, really a fun experience for me. And not that I can’t change anything to it, but I don’t think I would have. Obviously if I would have gone back, I would have hit a 7-iron a little bit different, but I think in that moment, I’m pretty happy with what Austin and I did, even though the result really sucks.”