A half-century ago, Larry Mize held one of golf’s most coveted jobs: scoreboard operator at the Augusta National.
On Thursday, a scoreboard operator at Augusta National told Larry Mize he held one of golf’s most coveted positions: the lead at the Masters.
“It’s always fun to see your name up on the leaderboard here,” Mize said after his opening round, two-under 70. “It was nice to come back and finish really well on the back nine. I played really solid coming in and really felt good. “
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There were plenty of storylines percolating throughout Augusta National on a soggy Thursday morning. Bryson DeChambeau hit everything but the fairway, Tiger Woods (remember him?) hit his groove and Paul Casey hit everything, period.
But no story was quite as interesting as 62-year-old Larry Mize finishing the day with a two-under 70, tied for 14th. Mize, whose most recent PGA Tour win came at the 1993 Buick Open (a one-stroke victory over Fuzzy Zoeller), was in a better position than 24-year-old Scottie Scheffler, who was not yet born when Mize won the Buick in August 1993 — and wouldn’t be born for another 34 months.
Mize’s latest PGA Tour victory also predates the life of Bryson DeChambeau, the reigning U.S. Open champion. On a day in which Mize, the 1987 Masters Champ, averaged 247 yards off the tee, DeChambeau averaged 334 — 87 yards separating the pair. Yet, despite that cavernous gap in distance, Mize and DeChambeau recorded identical scores, and the elder player managed one more birdie (six) than his younger, longer counterpart (five).
On a week in which golf’s “distance debate” has raged, Mize’s post-round words spoke to a bygone era in the sport — or perhaps an era that isn’t as far bygone as we believed.
“I’ve been working really hard on my wedge game because I know I’ve got to hit wedges close to score, and I made three birdies with wedges,” he said. “So four of my birdies were with clubs I’ve really been working on controlling the distance and putting it close. That’s what I’ve got to do to score well. That’s a big part of it.”
Evidently, it seems there’s something to be said for experience at Augusta. DeChambeau might be capable of maxing out the range at Augusta National, but through 18 holes at least, he is not yet capable of besting a sexagenarian whose only win this millennium came a decade ago in a now-defunct Champions Tour event.
As tempting as it may be to claim Mize as evidence of the frivolousness of distance, perhaps his performance is a better indicator of the advantageousness of course knowledge. Mize was born in Augusta and lives just a few hours west in Columbus, Ga. He spent his teenage years at the Masters as a scoreboard operator on the 3rd hole. His degree is from Georgia Tech, just up the road.
At the 1987 Masters, Mize was the “other guy” in a playoff against two titans — Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros. Yet, on the second playoff hole, No. 11, it was Mize who chipped in from nearly 50 yards for birdie, stunning Norman and claiming his first and only major championship.
Now, he returns to Augusta every year under the lifetime exemption granted to all Masters winners. This will be his 37th consecutive Masters as a player and his 32nd since earning the exemption. If Mize is capable of stringing together another strong round Friday, he’ll be the second-oldest player ever to make the weekend at the Masters, behind only Tommy Aaron, who made the cut at age 63 in 2000.
In this strange year, 62-year-old Larry Mize is in the hunt at Augusta National. And no, he’s not thinking about retirement any time soon.
“It would have been fun to make those six birdies in front of family and friends, but I think — hopefully some of them were following me online and hopefully they enjoyed that,” he said. “The fans are such a big part of this place. To not have any roars out there today and no patrons, no fans, it is different, but it’s still special. It’s still awesome to be here.”