This wild, windy Masters has been *exactly* what the game needed

Max Homa clears sand from his eyes during the 2024 Masters.

Max Homa rubbing sand from his eyes in the second round.

Darren Riehl/GOLF

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The little plumes of smoke blowing across windswept fairways were actually wee clouds of sand. The woman who looked like Barbara Nicklaus in the very public and very crowded merchandise tent near the driving range was, in fact, Barbara Nicklaus. The man on the range earnestly striping one shot after another without a caddie or a nameplate beside his bag was the club’s designated marker, Michael McDermott, an Augusta National member and a serious stick. He knew his services might be needed on the weekend, if the Friday night cut landed on an odd number.

The weekend! Weekend golf in the year’s first major. What golf desperately needs right now is actual golf. Well, here it comes.

Tiger Woods was on a riser, hands on his hips, looking down on a scrum, a rugby term co-opted by reporters. He was at the end of a 12-hour shift, from 4ish in the morning to 4ish in the afternoon, far more than half of it spent on the hilliest course in championship golf, playing 23 holes in two over par. He’s 48, his body ravaged by surgeries and car crashes and a million golf swings, but there he was, in his happy place. He’d be playing golf on the weekend, and he wasn’t out of it, not in his mind.

“I have a chance going into the weekend,” Woods said. It was intense, seeing Woods and hearing Woods. His life, the meaningful part of his public life, has really been about only two things: His skill in golf, and his unforgiving relentlessness. “I have a chance to win the golf tournament.”

Woods has a new man on his bag, the veteran caddie Lance Bennett. (Matt Kuchar, Lorena Ochoa.) He has a new clothing line, Sun Day Red. (His belt on Friday had just a single buckle hole.) He still falls back to jock-speak nonchalance. “Just need some food and some caffeine and I’ll be good to go.” He’ll be good for the weekend.

Man, do we need it. Golf — professional golf, elite men’s division — has been chopping off its own toes with its self-absorption (way too many rules debacles, players putting themselves ahead of the game) and its vulgar pursuit of ever-bigger paydays.

C’mon, people. It’s just golf! We pay for the privilege of shooting 90. You get paid for the privilege of playing courses like Pebble Beach, Harbour Town, Doral — and Augusta National. You’ve got it made. Can you not see that? You’ve got it made!

And, for this weekend, so do we.

This Max Homa, with his beard and his bouncy walk and his journaling. He seems just a little bit . . . out there, and golf is better for it. This Scottie Scheffler, with his dancing-shoes finish and his regular-guy demeanor. Makes golf better. This Bryson DeChambeau, with his — everything. His single-plane swing, with its nods to Moe Norman, the Canadian golf savant of the 1950s. His nighttime range sessions, music in his ears. His press-room quotes like, “Tee height. OK, tee height.” Like, this is getting serious. He makes golf better.

Was Zach Johnson’s Masters F-bomb directed at patrons? Here’s what he said
By: Nick Dimengo

Last year, the Masters, and really the other three majors, too, were colored by the LIV-Tour divide. Us against them. Tradition versus upstart. All it brought to the game is aggravation. This ridiculous golfing dispute is not going to disappear. But for this weekend, none of that matters. The mood was set Tuesday night, at the Champions Dinner, which brings together old (Big Jack), the young (Big Jon), LIV rebels (Phil Mickelson), Tour loyalists (Woods). Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters winner and a member of the 4Aces LIV Golf team, sat with Gary Player and Nick Faldo and talked about Seve Ballesteros.

Reed was even par as he walked from the 17th green to the 18th tee. A fan put out a fist. Reed bumped it back and kept on going, his eyes on the prize all the while, the 18th tee. You’ve got to finish in this game. You can’t qualify for the weekend rounds playing just 35 holes.

Reed hits a low draw, with drumstick arms he borrowed from Tom Watson and a trap-draw swing with its nods to Ian Woosnam and Karrie Webb. Say whatever you want about him — let’s give it a break for this weekend, shall we? — the man can flat-out swing a golf club and play this maddening game. He has an ideal swing, and an ideal ball flight, for a day when flagsticks are bent like a shopper inspecting peaches at a roadside fruit stand. At least, in theory.

But Augusta National, for the Masters, is not a theory. It’s golf. Golf at its best. Right up there with the U.S. Open and the British Open.

Reed hit his final tee shot on Friday a mile right, and still he made a tap-in 4. His wife, Justine, in her Chanel hiking boots, taking it all in, on her toes, when necessary. You don’t get lucky and make a par on the 18th at Augusta National in Friday afternoon’s no-direction-home wind. You don’t get lucky and shoot even par for two rounds in this 2024 Masters.

So here comes the weekend. The weekend of the year’s first major. Patrick Reed’s in. He’s playing. Max Homa, Jim Nantz, Lance Bennett: in, in, in. Tommy Fleetwood, one under, 9-wood in his bag: in. Tiger Woods, with his new belt and his outside chance: in.

“I love the crowds,” Patrick Reed said. He was sun-whipped and wind-burned but he didn’t seem tired at all. We all know how that goes, when your golf is good. The game gives you energy.

Enter us. In.

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at

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