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'I just survived': How the rain created carnage at the 2023 Masters

Masters 2023

Christian Iooss

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Our eyes are used to seeing golf played in perfection. Bright, sunny, calm days in pristine conditions.

But the game doesn't stop when the weather turns, as avid golfers know well. If there's grass on the ground, there's a game to be played.

We rarely see that notion put to the test at the Masters, but we did on Saturday at Augusta National. The temperature dropped to sub-50 degrees. The wind kicked up, and the rain lashed down. It was a truly miserable day to play golf.

"I just survived," said Adam Scott, who finished his second round in some of the worst of the weather.

"It's basically impossible," Cameron Young said. "I don't really know what you're supposed to do."

The rain makes golf harder for everyone, but the really interesting thing about extreme weather—be it wind or rain—is that it has a bigger impact on better players. In other words, the worse the weather, the worse it is for better players.

Here's why.

Masters 2023

Christian Iooss

1. The spin gets screwed up

Top players generate a huge amount of speed during their golf swing, and with that speed comes more spin. Pros generate a lot of backswing, and are in a constant state of keeping a firm lid on it. At any given point, pros are pretty dialed-in. They know exactly how far they hit their clubs, and their spin numbers for each.

But when the rain comes, everything gets screwed up. The wet creates less friction between club and ball, which reduces spin. That sends the ball different distances and causes it to react more unpredictably.

It happens everywhere from tee-to-green, and you never get a break from it.

Masters 2023

Christian Iooss

"That seventh green was soaked. I thought I hit a good bunker shot, and it looked like it just skidded on the water," Koepka said. "You've just got to grind through and salvage something."

2. Everything gets longer

Everything changes when the rain comes, but there's one constant: Everything gets longer. This happens in a variety of ways.

Masters 2023

Ben Walton

First, and most obvious, is because the course soaks. Goodbye roll, both off the tee and into greens. It's all about carry distances, and those get shorter, too. The temperature of the air drops, which sends the ball shorter; the ball collides with countless raindrops as it flies, which sends the ball shorter; your muscles constrict, which slows players' swings and sends the ball shorter; you bundle up to protect yourself against the elements, which constricts your swing and sends the ball shorter; the greens get slower as they get more wet, which sends even putts shorter.

It's one thing after the other, and it all adds up.

"Those two holes at the end, 17 and 18 were two absolute monsters; 500 yards in pouring rain is going to be very long," Rahm said. "The second shot on 18; 4-iron had a very slim chance of getting on the green. But I thought anywhere short was better than whatever the 5-wood could end up."

3. Mis-hits get crushed

Tiger Woods came to the 16th hole squarely in the midst of the worst of the weather. Sporting a heavy limp, he appeared to catch his iron shot a little fat, and his ball ended up in the middle of the water short of the green. He knew it the moment he hit it.

Masters 2023

Ben Walton

When the ground soaks, simply put, it creates less margin for error. Hit a tiny bit behind the ball, and it's like a knife through hot butter. The club slides into the turf, and the ball goes nowhere. It's hard on a practical level, but also creates a layer of indecision and fear that can be hard to overcome.

"It makes for a very scrappy game," Viktor Hovland said. "I think the cooperation, the chemistry, between player and caddie becomes more important."