‘I wish somebody would have taken the remote’: Smylie Kaufman’s Masters Sunday regret

Smylie Kaufman of the United States reacts on the first hole during the final round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2016 in Augusta, Georgia

Smylie Kaufman fired a final-round 81 at the 2016 Masters.

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Smylie Kaufman’s career trajectory has been worth following. Though he notched his lone PGA Tour win with a sizzling final round of 61 at the 2015 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, his competitive career is perhaps best remembered by his performance at the 2016 Masters.

Kaufman was a first-timer in the field, and fired rounds of 73-72-69 to earn a spot in Sunday’s final pairing, one shot behind third-round leader Jordan Spieth.

But that’s when the fairytale ended for Kaufman. A disastrous final-round 81 dropped him into T29 — and he hasn’t played in a Masters since.

But that’s also not where Kaufman’s PGA Tour story ends. Though his competitive career as a pro has come to a close, last January, Kaufman joined NBC Sports to serve as an on-course reporter for the network’s golf coverage, and earned immediate plaudits for his insight and commentary.

GOLF’s Dylan Dethier was certain there must be more to Kaufman’s story, and made Kaufman the centerpiece of Breakthrough’s second episode.

Dethier caught up with the 32-year-old at the 2023 RSM Open to discuss a myriad of topics, from the story behind Smylie’s unique name to his antics alongside buddies Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth. But it was Kaufman’s reminiscence of his 2016 Masters experience that was particularly compelling.

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“I tell people all the time, if you’re gonna play the Masters once, you might as well have the full experience,” Kaufman said with a laugh. “And well, let me tell you, I had the full freaking experience.”

Kaufman said the week started on a high note, when he was one of several players to make a hole-in-one during that year’s famously electric Par-3 Contest. When the tournament began, windy conditions in the opening rounds played right into his hands. Kaufman said he loved the creativity required to play Augusta National and felt the course was a good fit for his game.

But after a terrific Saturday, the final round loomed. Kaufman said he struggled with what to do with himself while he waited for his late-afternoon tee time, and turned on the TV.

“I was pretty bored that day, to be honest,” he said. “I was looking for anything to do. I turned on the Golf Channel and for whatever reason, they had Tin Cup on. And I’m just kind of a sucker for like, certain movies. If it’s on, I have to watch it. And Tin Cup was one of them.

“I wish somebody would have taken the remote and turned the channel because Tin Cup is what you should not be watching on Sunday if you’re trying to go win the Masters,” Kaufman continued. “So dealing, obviously watching that, that wasn’t helpful.”

For a quick refresher on the movie’s plot: when Kevin Costner’s character, driving-range pro Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, has a chance to become an unlikely winner of the U.S. Open, he decides to go for a hero shot over water, trying and failing again and again until he drops his final ball. If that ball doesn’t stay in play, Roy will be disqualified. He ends up holing out with his final ball, losing the U.S. Open but becoming a folk hero in the process.

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Easy to see why this plotline was less than inspiring for Kaufman on that Sunday morning!

Still, Kaufman insisted that he didn’t play as poorly as his score indicated that day.

“I just had some really terrible breaks, and that’s Augusta National,” he said. “Like, when you were like a foot off, it can really mess you up and get in some really terrible spots. “I really felt like I hit it well and I’ve always been a great putter and I just really struggled with my start lines that day. It wasn’t necessarily nerves. I just didn’t see the ball go in the hole and wasn’t able to make the proper adjustments on the greens.”

For more from Kaufman in Breakthrough, check out the second episode in its entirety above or at the YouTube link below.

Golf.com Editor

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.