Strange but true
Masters 2023: 7 things that make this already an incredibly bizarre Masters
AUGUSTA, Ga. — The 87th Masters is already shaping up to be one of the most peculiar in history, and we’ve barely in the third round. Crazy weather, weird shirts, trees crashing down near fans and an amateur in the mix are just a few of the storylines that have added extra intrigue to a week that was already highly anticipated at Augusta National.
Here are seven of the quirkiest:
Viktor Hovland’s Thursday shirt
Playing with Woods and Xander Schauffele in the opening round, Hovland wore a J. Lindeberg shirt that went viral, given it looked like a Jackson Pollock artwork if Pollock had been colorblind. The shirt combined the colors of azaleas and Masters green on a white polo, and one veteran golf writer brilliantly described in on Twitter as, “hibiscus piña colada.” On Friday, the popular Norwegian wore a much safe beige shirt, and finished 36 holes at six under.
Mike Weir’s lonely back nine
Weir was always going to play Thursday’s opening round quickly given he was sent out in the first group in a twosome with Kevin Na. But when the LIV golfer withdrew after just nine holes with an illness, that made for a new dynamic. On the 20th anniversary of his 2003 Augusta triumph, Weir, the only Canadian to have won the Masters, played the back nine solo and shot an even-par 72. His playing time? 3 hours and 40 minutes. “I can't remember the last time played as a single,” Weir said. “That was a strange back nine.”
An amateur contending
Yes. But Sam Bennett is no ordinary amateur. The 23-year-old star at Texas A&M won the U.S. Amateur last August at Ridgewood C.C. in New Jersey to earn his Masters debut. After two rounds, Bennett’s two 68s put him at eight under par and four shots behind 36-hole leader, Brooks Koepka. Eight under is the second lowest by an amateur in the Masters’ 87-year history. Although an amateur has never won the Masters, three have finished second. But not since Charles Coe in 1961, when he was joint runner-up with Arnold Palmer.
Augusta National is so revered in the sports world that even some of its trees are famous. One of the bigger news stories at the 2014 Masters was the removal of the Eisenhower Tree from the 17th hole after it was damaged by ice storms. Its name came from the fact it tormented former President Dwight D Eisenhower, an Augusta member.
This week, though, the trees at Augusta National became an unfortunate topic on Friday when three trees collapsed just as play was being halted in Friday’s second round due to bad weather. Thankfully, no one was injured, as the trees fell slowly enough for patrons to clear the area. Footage of their crash, and the noises which shook that area of the course, lit up social media.
“I’ve never seen anything like that on the golf course,” said Larry Mize, the 1987 Masters champ who was part of a pairing with Min Woo Lee and Harrison Crowe putting on the 16th green just 50 yards away. “It's just a miracle that nobody got hurt.”
On Saturday morning, the three areas where the trees had fallen had been patched up with green river sand and cordoned off with green ropes, resembling a green crime scene.
Sandy Lyle’s interrupted swansong
Lyle, 65, decided to end a run of 42 appearances at this Masters this year. But instead of waving goodbye on Friday afternoon, Lyle had to return Saturday morning due to those trees falling on No. 17. Lyle, a Scotland native, was facing a 12-footer for par when second round play was suspended for a second time Friday at 4:22 p.m. EDT and eventually was halted for the rest of the day. Lyle two-putted his final green when play resumed Saturday morning at 8 a.m. to sign for an 83 and finish last.
Weathering the second round
When Masters leader Brooks Koepka was finishing up second round at Augusta National on Friday, after teeing off at 8:18 a.m., it was 81 and with 60 percent humidity. It was hot, and sticky with the sun amplified by overhanging clouds. But by the time the players in the Friday afternoon wave had finished their second rounds Saturday morning, it was 47, with pouring rain and grey skies. The final group in round two - Open champion Cameron Smith, 2021 Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama and Sungjae Im began the round with shirts and ended it dressed head to toe in rain gear and sweaters. When they then finally finished the second round on Saturday morning, it was still only in the 40s and pouring!
Tiger’s Saturday final-group pairing (asterisk required)
A five-time Masters champion, Woods has found himself playing in the final group eight times across Saturday and Sunday rounds in his career at Augusta National. And it happened again on Saturday for the third round, although with an asterisk. He was playing this time off the 10th tee.
Indeed, Woods was fortunate to make the cut at all with rounds of 74-73, just sneaking by on the number while also tying the record for most consecutive cuts made at 23rd. When Masters officials decided to use two tees to help get players around during the third round, Tiger got his latest final group, playing with Sungjae Im and Thomas Pieters.