5 bizarre things you forgot happened during last year’s Masters

Tiger Woods augusta national

Tiger Woods and falling trees were just two of the bizarre elements we saw at the 2023 Masters.

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On the eve of the 2024 Masters, it’s a worthwhile reminder that oh, so much is still yet to come. You want proof? Take a look at just how wild the 2023 Masters was. Below are five things you probably forgot happened just 12 months ago.

Falling Trees

The wackiest moment of the 2023 Masters, and perhaps the 2023 season, was when multiple tall pine trees fell across the 17th tee during the second round. Play had been suspended earlier in the day, clearing some of the patrons from the course, and was about the be suspended again. But in the interim, play continued. Sandy Lyle peered into the sky as heavy winds coursed through the trees. There was a crack so loud that patrons thought they were in the center of a thunderstorm. Suddenly, two towering pines were on a direct path for the turf. 

Miraculously, no one was injured. GOLF.com’s Alan Bastable recently caught up with multiple patrons who were in the middle of this mayhem, one of whom believed her life was saved by another spectator. 

Brooks’ hand gesture?

In any other year the above story may have been the story of the week, but the 2023 Masters started off with a completely different controversy. Prior to the trees falling, Brooks Koepka appeared to flash five fingers with his gloved hand during the second round while playing the 15th hole with Gary Woodland. 

Was it a signal for “I hit 5-iron?” Was it Koepka stretching his fingers to take his glove off? That debate raged on throughout the weekend as Koepka was in the running to win until very late on Sunday. You may recall, Brandel Chamblee and the Live From the Masters crew were not fans of Koepka’s interpretation. 

Tiger’s made cut (and JT/Rory’s miss) 

It’s been difficult to accurately predict how Tiger Woods will fare at the Masters these last few years, given how much of a struggle it is for him — at times at least — to simply walk one of the hilliest courses in championship golf. But one thing has been a certainty for Woods every Masters he’s played in for the last two decades: he’s made the cut.

In 2023, that meant bundling up with heavy cold and rain gear and playing extremely controlled golf while Mother Nature dumped water all over the course. Delays from the first two days pushed the finish of the second round to Saturday morning, where we found Woods grimacing through the conditions, but squeaking out a made cut on the number, his 23rd-straight made cut at the Masters, dating all the way back to 1997 when he triumphed as a 21-year-old. That tied the record for consecutive cuts made in the tournament. 

Meanwhile, his two proteges — Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy — both missed the cut at the same time. It made Woods’ feat feel even more superhuman when he was forced to withdraw during the third round and have season-ending surgery later that month. But still, a cut made. 

Sam Bennett’s rise 

It was the Brooks Koepka show for much of the 2023 Masters, but quietly hanging around behind him was a new one for golf fans: Sam Bennett. The amateur who plays golf at Texas A&M opened with a stunning 68 in the first round. No one notices when the likes of Koepka, Rahm, Hovland, Schauffele, Lowry and Burns are tied with you.

But when you come back the next day and shoot 68 again, everyone starts to notice. And when you do it with a burly goatee all the while, the golf world starts to remember your name. That was Bennett’s reality 12 months ago as his near perfect start pushed him into the final grouping for Saturday’s third round, alongside pro golf titans in Koepka and Rahm. 

Even though his Masters would soon go a bit downhill with a 76 in the third round, Bennett had landed on the world golf stage. He proceeded to turn pro the next month and continues his grind on the Korn Ferry Tour at the moment. 

Phil Mickelson’s charge 

One of the most under-appreciated rounds in Masters history played out many groups ahead of Koepka and eventual champion Jon Rahm. Jordan Spieth was going low. And next to him, LIV Golf leader Phil Mickelson was going just as a low. 

Then 52 years old, Mickelson started his round slowly, with just one birdie in the first four holes. He even bogeyed the difficult 5th hole, sitting at even par for his round with just 13 holes to play. He was just two under through 11 holes when he proceeded to birdie 12, 13, 15, 17 and 18. Suddenly, Mickelson was in the clubhouse, and more importantly, the low score in the clubhouse. 

For about an hour, the golf world nervously wondered if Mickelson had potentially done the unthinkable again. The final pairing turned to the back nine, where anything can happen, and Jon Rahm answered the bell, finishing out at 12 under, four shots clear of Mickelson. But second on that leaderboard Sunday, and for as long as we care about the 2023 Masters, will be Lefty’s name, reminding everyone of his ability to wind back the clock.

Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.