Patrick Cantlay’s Masters pairing got delayed — but it’s not what you think

Patrick Cantlay of the United States walks across the first hole during the third round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club

Patrick Cantlay had to do some waiting himself Saturday.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — The immaculate golf course here at Augusta National, with its world-class agronomy whizzes and sophisticated irrigation system and SubAir units, is a modern marvel. But it does not lack for throwback charm, either. It has an old-timey plantation-style clubhouse, a no-phone policy and short strolls between tees and greens — and, in spots, greens and greens.

Such is the case at 9 and 18, where the two putting surfaces don’t quite abut but are close enough to one another that if players catch flyers on their approaches into either green, they could theoretically find themselves playing their third shots from the adjacent hole.   

In the third round of the Masters on Saturday, Si Woo Kim arrived on the home hole at one under for his round and five over for the tournament, a long way out of the hunt. He set up on the right side of the tee box and hit a towering cut that cut too much. His ball rattled around in the trees right of the fairway and dropped into the rough below. Boxed out by the trees, he tried to hit a low hard fade toward the green with a fairway wood. His ball did not fade.

“Left!” someone cried, followed by a “Forrre!”

Kim’s ball missed the green well left and scooted down near the edge of the 9th fairway just below the 9th green in an area populated by dozens of patrons. By the time Kim arrived at the scene to play his third shot, Patrick Cantlay and the low amateur at this week’s tournament, Neal Shipley, were making their way down the 9th fairway. They could see the commotion ahead — gallery guards creating a channel for a player to hit a shot back to 18 — but couldn’t make out who was involved or what exactly was happening.

“We were just there waiting for them to clear patrons, do something,” Shipley said after his round. “We were just really confused. We were standing there for a while, and somebody from the side told us, ‘Oh, that was actually a player on 18.’”

Meanwhile, the clock was ticking, as it does when shots goes astray in big-time golf tournaments. People-moving takes time. So, too, does playing shots from unfamiliar spots and angles, especially at Augusta National. Shipley estimated “seven or eight minutes” elapsed before Kim cleared out and they could play their approaches into the 9th green, meaning they had fallen behind pace — albeit not by their own doing.

An official approached Shipley and Cantlay.

“They didn’t give us a time warning, but they asked us to try and close the gap,” Shipley said.  

Cantlay, fairly or not, has never been considered an elite gap-closer. On Masters Sunday a year ago, he was in the penultimate paring with Viktor Hovland, playing one pairing ahead of eventual runner-up Brooks Koepka and winner Jon Rahm. After the round, Koepka bemoaned Cantlay and Hovland’s “brutally slow” pace, though his critique was presumed to be leveled directly at Cantlay. (Cantlay countered that he, too, had been waiting on every shot in the final round.)

Shipley, for his part, said he had no issues with Cantlay’s pace Saturday.

“I know he has a bad rep for playing slow, but he actually is a pretty quick player,” Shipley said. “He takes a little bit longer over the ball, but he’s really quick in making his decisions. It’s kind of a shame that he has that reputation, because it’s really not bad at all.”

Shipley shot 80 in the third round; he is eight over the week and 15 strokes off Scottie Scheffler’s lead. Cantlay shot 70 and is even for the tournament, seven back.

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