A few quick rain-soaked notes from following the leaders for seven holes on Saturday afternoon at Augusta National…
Chilly – The cold was not so bad on its own, but when the rain picked up, it got brutal around the third hole for the leaders in their third round. Then the winds came and the water accumulated and you were just waiting for the horn. Play slowed to a crawl as club faces were wiped and re-wiped before play. Finally, the water running through the seventh green became too much to play on, but this Masters looks safe enough for a Sunday finish. Given the original grim forecast for much of the week and all of today, this seems like a huge victory. Combined with the avoidance of serious injuries from yesterday’s trees falling over, good fortune has fallen on the Masters again.
Unlucky Jon – Jon Rahm got the worst of it both in the morning and afternoon before the suspension. I overheard Adam Hayes, Rahm’s caddie, tell his father at the putting green that the morning play in the wind and rain toward the end of their second round was the worst they’ve had since the brutal Sunday final round at Royal Portrush in the 2019 Open.
All the smoke – This was the rare day at the Masters when cigar smoke mixed with chimney smoke. I’m sure that’s been the case before, such as at the 2007 Masters. But it’s the first I’d ever seen: the sight of white smoke and smell of it lingered all around the putting green and first tee, coming from the chimneys in the cabins near the putting green and 10th tee as well as the end of the clubhouse. The humidity and smell of sunscreen and sweat the past couple of days was replaced by the smell of a burning fire like it was a Thanksgiving-weekend gathering.
Tiger Woods on Saturday at the Masters (photo courtesy of Augusta National)
The star of the show – The two-tee start led to the rare occasion when the crowds at the 10th tee were arguably deeper and louder than the ones at the first tee for leaders Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Shortly after Brooks’s name was announced, the applause for him was overrun by the cheers for a member of the other 1:06 grouping—Tiger Woods. Even the weather couldn’t thin out that scene.
Little big – The contrast in physical stature in the final group was quite stark. We had two “middle linebackers” in Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka, and amateur Sam Bennett in his un-logoed rain gear. Shortly after Rahm marched through to the putting green with headphones in, Bennett arrived and noticed his mom on the rope line. He stopped for a big hug and his mom whispered, “I love you.” Bennett continued on to the putting green while his mom wiped tears from her cheeks. His family’s story was documented quite well by Ryan Lavner on Golf Channel this week, and this was an incredibly moving scene to witness before the biggest round of his life.