AUGUSTA, Ga. — Perhaps the only thing more difficult than trying to win a major championship is trying to fill the hours before you get the chance.
At the Masters, this is usually a golfer’s reward for playing well. If you lead the tournament, you draw a late afternoon tee time the next day, and you then attempt some sort of mental gymnastics in which you strain to avoid the thought of the sizable opportunity ahead.
On Sunday, one subtle byproduct of the ominous weather forecast is that players won’t have the luxury, if that’s what we want to call it. The final threesome of Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau tee off a 9:20 a.m as opposed to the usual 2:40 p.m. start, allowing far less sleep, but perhaps less stress as well.
“I do think that’s nice, not waiting around till 3 o’clock kind of twiddling your thumbs. If you work out, eat, there’s a lot going on there,” said Finau, the only player in the final group who hasn't won a major title.
Finau experienced the traditional dynamic when he played well at last June’s U.S. Open. A spot in the final pairing meant he didn’t tee off until 2:24 p.m., and he was exhausted before he even left for the golf course. “It was the longest day of my life, and I still hadn’t teed off,” he said.
Instead, even those players teeing off “latest” will be rising before dawn, and some, like Woods whose fragile body requires more preparation than others, it will be even earlier. The 14-time major champion said he expects to rise at 3:45 a.m.—painful perhaps, but even for him, it'll be less time to let the mind wander.
“I always feel pressure,” Woods said. “The day I don’t feel pressure is the day I quit. I always say that if you care about something, obviously you’re going to feel pressure.”