‘Basically impossible’: Rain, cold turns Augusta National into torture chamber
AUGUSTA, Ga. — The smartest people wore golf spikes. The competitors, obviously, but patrons, too. It was a sloppy day at Augusta National and tennis shoes had people slipping. Same for rain boots.
Due to inclement weather, the second round had to be completed early on this third day of the Masters, and under wildly different conditions. When Justin Thomas played the 10th hole, late Friday afternoon, it was 70 degrees. When he played the 11th, at 8 a.m. Saturday, it felt like 48. The ropey, low draw he hit from the 11th fairway tumbled down the hill and dove into the pond. Saturday was only going to get worse.
God bless the patrons who filed onto the ground and god bless the staffers who greeted them, water spilling off the bills of their hats. “Welcome to the Masters,” a security guard said with a smile. His kind words were mostly drowned by the squish-squishing of feet. They normally call Saturday “Moving Day” at the Masters, but this was more like “Sustaining Day.” Dig your heels in and hold steady. Even if you’re just a fan.
At 10:10 a.m. it was absolutely dumping.
At 10:20, just spraying.
10:50: We might actually be at a water park.
11:30: Finally, just a light mist. By then, the second round was finished, the cut was made and we could finally ask about it.
“It’s basically impossible,” Cameron Young said. “I don’t really know what you’re supposed to do.”
“It felt like a different sport today,” Mackenzie Hughes said. “If we play this afternoon, it’s not going to be pleasant,” Seamus Power added.
The temperature had risen to 50 degrees but the feels-like temp had dropped to 45. Unfortunately, they all knew the rules. “As long as there’s no thunder, we’re going to be playing.” That was Patrick Reed. There was no thunder, but there was a lot more rain. The beanies came out. The show goes on.
1:38 p.m.: It’s downpouring again. Players had changed into drier clothes.
1:56: Hey! It’s still raining, but it’s a nice calm rain.
2:02: Dumping again. And for the rest of the day.
Why is playing golf in the rain so tough? Water droplets on the face of a driver can send the ball squirreling to the right. “Even right out of the middle of the face,” Young said.
Also, “The ball just goes nowhere,” Viktor Hovland added. At 2:55 p.m., in the absolute thick of it, Tiger Woods pulled his club back on 16 and was immediately disgusted upon impact. His shot never cleared the pond, leading to double bogey. Like Vik said, the ball goes nowhere. Adam Scott was playing two or three clubs longer than approaches he hit earlier this week. That means 3-iron on the 18th, if you’re lucky. Thomas had to play a wood. It was a last-ditch move that ended with bogey. He shot six over on the day’s final seven holes and was headed home.
If we could ask Patrick Reed one question, here in hindsight, it would be this: would you like it to thunder? His answer would probably be yes. He started with birdies on 2 and 3 before making three bogeys over the next six. Numerous others did the same. Phil Mickelson reached six under but back-tracked to four. Collin Morikawa reached seven under but back-tracked to five. Justin Rose up to six deep, then back to four. Even Jon Rahm, who had tempered the weather enough to get into the final pairing, reached 11 under before quickly backing up to nine. Annoying the rest of the field was Brooks Koepka, impervious to all genre of distraction, even Mother Nature. He’s at 13 under and leading the tournament by four. But he has a 30-hole Sunday gauntlet ahead of him thanks to Saturday’s showers.
Hours of rain pummeling the course makes it long, it makes the chips skid and the wedges rip. That’s a different type of golf. But when the greens are made firm and intended to be fast, it’s unsustainable golf. The putting surfaces bubble over the point of saturation. At 3:15 p.m., horns blew across the property, which was to be expected. Only it came with a slightly unexpected message: we’re clearing the course, not for an hour or two but for the rest of the day. See y’all in the morning. It was a welcome surprise.