Monday Finish: 10 things the Masters TV broadcast didn’t show you
Welcome to the Monday Finish! This is where we’ll tally the scores for the week that was and tee you up for the week to come. This week’s edition comes from on the ground and will take a slightly different format, but I hope it’s fun anyway. Enjoy!
AUGUSTA, Ga. — For most of the week I couldn’t help but feel as though this Masters was defined by the people who weren’t there rather than those who were.
Chief among the missing was Tiger Woods, the 2019 Masters champion, the single person with whom this tournament is most often associated. We didn’t talk all that much about Tiger Woods this week because we don’t really know what to say.
We know that Woods is at home in Florida, where he’s recovering from a horrific car crash. We know that Rory McIlroy has been to see him (and to marvel at his trophy case). Justin Thomas, too. We know that he’s doing okay, but that he’s still months from getting back to walking. We know that must be tough. We don’t know much else for sure except that his name was on the list of non-playing past champions. His presence was sorely missed.
I missed the fans, too. Augusta National allowed several thousand patrons on property (between five and 10 thousand, depending upon whose estimates you believed) but a higher-than-usual concentration were members, guests and various other well-connected folks. That meant something was missing atmospherically.
Put another way: There were just enough fans there to remind us that the fans weren’t quite there. When they’re back, we’ll be better for it.
Come Sunday I realized just how many more names were surprisingly missing from contention: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka each missed the cut, while Bryson DeChambeau made the weekend but never made noise once he got there. Their void felt like the biggest story of all.
But then, as I wandered the course late on Sunday, something changed. The crowds began to condense around the final few pairings. The atmosphere around the 15th and 16th greens elevated accordingly. By the time Matsuyama holed out on 18, you could feel just how special that moment really was.
I was lucky enough to snag a spot on the ropeline when he came off the 18th green. That meant I was close enough to see the moment settle in and the tears coming down the face of the oft-inscrutable Matsuyama. (I’m a blur on the right side of the video below.) One of the basic asks we make of our athletes is that they try and that they care. Hideki clearly did both. What a worthy champ.
Because you’ve likely read plenty about the Masters already anyway (and because it’s very late on Sunday night already) this week’s Monday Finish will skip the normal format and focus instead on the stuff you couldn’t see on television. Let’s buzz through 10 of my favorites.
1. One more year!
Late on Sunday, Masters rookie Robert MacIntyre was going through his own unique brand of scoreboard-watching. That’s because the Scottish lefty sat in a tie for 12th — and the Masters automatically invites its top 12 finishers back for next year’s tournament.
MacIntyre was clearly aware. And he wasn’t afraid to celebrate, either. When Brian Harman’s birdie try slid past the cup at 18, MacIntyre came jogging out of the clubhouse, jumped on his caddie and gave out fist-bumps left and right. Part of the Monday Finish ethos is being fully appreciative of cool things that you get to do. Playing the Masters definitely falls under that category.
2. Man in the shadows
I was standing beside the 18th tee when Hideki Matsuyama addressed his ball — but then he paused and stepped off for a moment.
“Sorry,” he said sheepishly to two crowd members, smiling and pointing to the ground in front of him. Their shadows were at the edge of his ball. “Can you…”
The two men hurriedly apologized and backed off from the rope, giving Matsuyama a shadow-free teeing ground. And then he striped a tee shot through No. 18’s terrifying chute, leaving just a wedge to the green.
Matsuyama’s exchange with the fan stuck with me. He was polite, composed, even apologetic, even though finding this fairway would literally change his life.
3. A walk-off moment
By the time Matsuyama made it to the 18th green, a crowd had gathered around No. 18. Plenty were there to see history made. But only one Tour pro came running up behind the green at the last minute: Kevin Na.
The 37-year-old had just dropped his wife at the Augusta airport and then rushed back (“at 100 mph,” he said) to soak in the moment.
“It means a lot,” Na said of Matsuyama’s victory. “I know Y.E. Yang won the PGA Championship, the first Asian-born player to win a major, and now first Asian-born to win the Masters? It’s a big deal.”
P.S. — turns out you actually could see this one on TV. Oh well.
4. QB camp
The grounds of Augusta were crawling with NFL quarterbacks. Patrick Mahomes was accompanied by trusty tight end Travis Kelce. Trevor Lawrence and fiance Marissa Mowry kicked off their wedding weekend with a trip to the Masters. Ryan Fitzpatrick showed off his beard for several days on the grounds. Augusta member Peyton Manning towered over fellow patrons. Tom Brady FaceTimed in to Tony Finau. And there were rumors of a Mitch Trubisky sighting, too, though I couldn’t independently confirm that one.
If they came with hopes of recruiting some receivers, though, I’m not sure they found what they were looking for. Will Zalatoris might be quick, but how many big hits could he really take?
5. Augusta’s No. 1 view
That would be the Sunday afternoon view from the sixth hole. After the final pair plays No. 6 on Sunday they open up the upper half of the hole to spectators (the lower part is always available). From a grassy perch you can see the tee shot at 17, the entirety of the 16th and then a particularly cool corridor view of No. 15 back through the trees. That’s where the golf tournament suddenly tightened when Matsuyama dunked one in the back drink and Schauffele made birdie to cut the lead to two.
The lead held. The view should hold up to next year, too — even if a couple pesky grandstands get in the way.
6. The longest layup
Yes, we decided that Spieth was basically already “back” after last week, when he went out and won the Valero Texas Open. And he was even more “back” this week, logging a T3 finish with a four-day total of seven under.
But I really knew Spieth was really back when he sent caddie Michael Greller some 150 yards ahead to pace off his entire layup at No. 15. There must have been something trickier about the shot than it looked, because the entire process took some 10 minutes, longer than any layup I can remember. At the end, after switching clubs two final times, Spieth sent what looked like a relatively simple punch shot up the fairway, leaving himself almost exactly 100 yards for his approach.
There are some things that Spieth does just slightly more intensely than other golfers. This was one of them.
7. Bryson and the trees
We got a taste of Bryson DeChambeau’s ability to radically shorten the famous 13th on Saturday, when the hole was playing downwind. His tee shot didn’t fully make the turn ’round the corner and instead bounded into a copse of trees separating 13 from 14.
But the reason you see so many heroic recovery shots at Augusta National is because they keep these corridors clear. No limbs. No underbrush. Heck, no pine cones! DeChambeau had a clear line to the flag, he had just 149 yards left and he had a prediction, too.
“Next year they’re definitely gonna put more trees in here,” he said, just loud enough so the crowd around could hear him. Everybody laughed. If you’re testing out material, there aren’t many friendlier rooms than a golf tournament gallery.
8. Replacement flowers
How, you might ask, do Augusta National’s flowers all seem to be in bloom at the same time? Based on my estimation, there are two main reasons.
No. 1: This part of the world at this time of year seems like the ideal place to grow azaleas. The apartment complex down the street from our rental has a splendid set of azalea bushes. So does the cemetery we pass on the way to the course. So does the second hole at nearby Aiken Golf Club, one of the coolest sub-6,000 yard golf courses I’ve ever played. The flowers aren’t just reserved for the National.
But No. 2 is far more interesting when it comes to Augusta minutiae. The plants you see on the Masters broadcast are very much real, living things. They’re in full bloom. They just might not be the same plants you saw in the same spot the day before. The overnight horticulture scene at Augusta is, by reputation, a busy one. They tap into stores of backup plants and bring them in like relief pitchers, dig up any that are fading or wilting and replace ’em. In the mornings, you can try to spot which plants weren’t there the day before. At Augusta, the cycles of nature are considered a challenge that can be overcome.
9. The most devastating Masters feeling
Because the scoreboards at the Masters are manual and not digital, the names that begin the day up there tend to stay, even if they slip just outside the top 10 early on. It’s a safety net of sorts; you can make a bogey or two but stay on the scoreboard.
It’s particularly devastating, then, when you do something officially errant enough to earn Augusta’s harshest punishment of all: A removal from said board. On Sunday that dubious honor belonged to Corey Conners, who began the day carrying Canada’s hopes on his shoulders only to play holes 5-8 in bogey-bogey-double-bogey to drop to two under for the tournament. That was enough to get him banished from the board.
Eventually, though, he’d work his way back on. Birdies at 14 and 18 secured a T8 finish and a slot on the Masters board.
10. No sleeping!
You’ve likely heard of other Augusta National rules, like no cell phones, no running and no rooting against golfers. But there’s another activity that’s banned by tournament organizers, too: sleeping. I witnessed one tuckered-out fan — sleepy from a half-day’s stroll around the property plus several beers — lay down overlooking the 13th green with an emphatic sigh.
He was quickly roused by a nearby marshal, who reminded him that “they” don’t like you sleeping at the Masters. I’d imagine it’s a safety thing (tougher to dodge golf balls), and a perception thing (sleepy spectators doesn’t suggest an entertaining tournament), and a reminder that this place has a policy for everything.
The rule makes sense. But it’s also kind of a bummer. With the birds chirping, the sun shining, the soothing sounds of golf in the background and the grass in immaculate condition, Augusta National may be one of the world’s greatest outdoor naps.
You’d just have to break the rules to do so.
Three things to watch this week.
1. Robert MacIntyre’s exit video
If hearing an ecstatic 24-year-old Scottish professional scream “I can boogie!” over music on his way out of Augusta National, having finished T12 and punched his ticket for next year, Bob MacIntyre is the golfer for you.
2. Hideki Matsuyama’s Saturday back nine
The craziest part about the Masters is you can rewatch every shot with relative ease via Masters.com like, right now. I’d suggest you start with the punch shot at 11 after the rain delay on Saturday and then follow his miraculous ball-striking home the rest of the way. Golf’s newest major champion didn’t get there by accident.
3. All the golf tournaments that come next, I guess
The craziest part about the Monday after the Masters is realizing that a bunch of these guys are just going to go play another tournament this coming week. Every golf fan is well aware of just how jam-packed the season is, but there’s a real sense of letdown coming out of Masters Sunday. By the time guys tee off in Hilton Head on Thursday, we’ll be charged up and ready for more golf. But in the immediate aftermath of the green jacket ceremony it’s hard to get ready to move on to Harbour Town.
We’ll see you next week.