‘Strange back nine’: What it’s like playing alone at the Masters

mike weir stands with his caddie

Competitors rarely ever play as a single at Augusta National, but on Thursday, Mike Weir had to do just that.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Augusta National is one of the most tranquil settings in golf, and on Thursday, Mike Weir got to enjoy the walk alone.

Weir teed off in the first group of the 87th Masters with Kevin Na at 8 a.m. However, after Na shot a front-nine 40, he withdrew from the tournament, citing illness. With the lead group going off in a twosome, it left Weir to play the inward half of the course by himself.

“I can’t remember the last time played as a single,” Weir said after signing for an even-par 72. “So that was a strange back nine.”

Players are typically grouped in threesomes during the first two rounds of the Masters, but with an odd number of players in the field (87), the first group out was grouped as a twosome. Weir said Na informed him early in the round he was feeling unwell, and on the 10th tee, he told him he was withdrawing.

The 2003 Masters champ went out in 35, but after his playing partner called it an early day, he bogeyed the following two holes. According to Weir’s caddie, Olly Brett, it took a couple holes to adjust to the pace of playing as a single.

“It’s a strange situation,” Brett said. “Normally you’re hitting a lot of putts here, lag putts where you leave yourself four- and five-footers and you’ve got time to think about it or process it. But when there’s nobody there, you’re kind of rushing into it. So we were just trying to take our time. It took a minute to get used to.”

After the back-to-back bogeys, Weir settled down and birdied the 12th. He added another circle to the card on the 15th, but immediately gave the shot back with a bogey on 16. Pars on the final two holes were enough to get him into the clubhouse at even par.

“I played like a leader today,” Weir said. “I played really well — 72’s a nice score.”

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Weir had an added challenge playing as a single which came in the form of assessing the conditions. Without being able to see how a playing partner’s ball reacts on the greens, Weir and Brett had some difficulty assessing the wind bouncing through the pines.

“You pay attention to ball flight and things like that,” Weir said. “Not so much on tee shots, but approach shots into the greens and around the greens, you see how the greens reacting and things like that when you’re playing with somebody else. So, yeah, didn’t have that.”

Despite Weir and Brett slowing their process, Weir opened up a sizable gap between himself and the group in chase. He finished his round about an hour before the next group reached the 18th green, giving him an early lunch at the Augusta National clubhouse.

“It was my time just to kind of get into the routine,” Weir said. “I knew I was going to be an hour and a half or so ahead of the group behind me, or an hour or so, so I knew I didn’t have to hustle, but I didn’t want to be like super slow. … It’s a little bit different, for sure.”

Weir tees off for Round 2 at 11:06 a.m. Augusta National has not yet announced if they will assign a marker to his group.

Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.