PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

Sunday Sweat

Masters 2024: Sweating a big bet at Augusta National is a very unique experience

April 14, 2024

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Attending the Masters is rightfully a bucket-list thing. Watching actual golf shots can be challenging—but the people-watching, celebrity-spotting and the mystique and history make it one of the hottest tickets in sports.

It’s safe to assume—with the growing popularity of golf betting—that thousands of patrons, perhaps tens of thousands, were walking the grounds of Augusta National this week with some rooting interests. They did so mostly in the dark. With no phones and select, manual leaderboards, it’s hard to track things while you’re on the course.

So I thought it’d be fun to chronicle the experience of sweating out a bet with the technological limitations. On Sunday, I met up with one of the sharper golf bettors I know, my buddy Dave, who has grown a following on Twitter for his “double hammer” wagers. He even found his way onto Scott Van Pelt’s podcast to preview major championships and divulge the illustrious double hammer. On his posted plays, Dave is 14-for-17 lifetime (.824), which includes a 5-for-6 record in 2023. He lost his first double hammer of 2024, but I tailed him on his second call of the year—because I have trust in our guy.

With money and his reputation on the line, we headed out to Amen Corner to catch up with Will Zalatoris. This week, Dave’s lock of the week was a top-20 placement bet on Willy Z. Zalatoris started the day T-21 at three over, so Dave would need a nice two- or three-under-par day to cash his bet. Here’s what it was like following it.

Augusta’s complications

With some careful planning, we managed to meet up and catch Willy Z teeing off on 13. First, we had to find a scoreboard—again, with no phones, it had been 20-plus minutes and a few holes since we had last been able to check in on him.

We were the only ones fist-pumping as the manual scoreboards displayed a ‘1’ next to Zalatoris’ name, meaning he was still one over par, and two under for the day, since we last saw him on the ninth hole. That meant we were in OK shape.

Next, the anxiety started. We could barely tell it was Zalatoris up on the 13th tee, but we could tell he was staring anxiously and leaning left toward the tributary of Rae’s Creek. Patrons aren’t allowed left of 13 fairway, and you can’t see the left side of the fairway with the extreme undulations—so we couldn’t tell whether the ball stayed dry.

Dave nervously asked patrons, “Did Willy’s ball stay dry?” Some people looked at us like we were crazy, like they had no clue who we were talking about. We were too locked in.

We walked as quickly as we could (no running) around the dogleg and finally got eyes on the tee shot. It was ideal (below)—197 yards to the pin … probably a 6- or 7-iron into the par 5.


Again, we couldn’t see the result. Surprisingly, no one reacted. We thought it could’ve went in the water. Surely these knowledgeable fans would applaud if he had reached in two. We again nervously speed-walked to get in position. Then we saw a ball. A ball! His playing partner Tyrrell Hatton had hit fairway wood and this ball was on the front of the green, so it couldn’t have been Hatton, right? We didn’t know till Z approached his ball. It was his! Z would two-putt for birdie—what had seemed like a possible bogey was all of a sudden a birdie. We figured at that point Zalatoris had to be inside the top 20.

A few more holes

Dave and I were both working, so we could only follow a few more shots. The 14th was worth seeing. Willy was stymied behind a tree. He spent less than 20 seconds considering his options. His caddie Joel Stock told him: “Be an artist.” It was so quiet we heard it all.


Sure enough, Zalatoris curved one around the tree and found the slope just over the green. An incredible shot from where he was. “That was un-f****** real,” Dave said as he walked happily up the fairway.

There were more anxious moments as Zalatoris pulled a wedge. It seemed like putter all day. Why risk something awful with a wedge?! In our face, Zalatoris nipped the perfect chip to four feet and escaped with a par.


Last anxious moments

Dave and I had to make our way back to the media center, but we’d catch Zalatoris’ tee shot on the way. All of a sudden, a ball bounded down near us way left of 15 fairway. That had to be Hatton, right? He had the honors still, we thought. But there’s no way of confirming. Minutes later we could tell Zalatoris was walking into the fairway. Woo! Hatton was in trouble.

But we weren’t out of the woods yet. We could barely see Zalatoris as he unleashed his long iron. Again, just like 13, we couldn’t hear any reaction. No moans, no applause. Finally, it looked like a rules official was meeting Zalatoris across the Sarazen Bridge. The only thing that could mean was that he went long over 15 green. Noooooo … this could cost everything. Dave’s mood turned to deflated. Seventy-two holes of sweating to get wet and cost everything.

Sure enough, Zalatoris was wet and now faced what seemed like an impossible up and down up the insane slope to a back pin. “Two-putt double. That’s my middle name,” Dave said begrudgingly.


Dave went to the dark place gamblers go to quick. He thought Zalatoris would come up short with his pitch then two-putt. Wrong!!! Zalatoris’ shot hopped twice before skidding to a stop 10 feet from the cup. Then he canned it!

Heads turned alongside 15 fairway as Dave let out a yell, and we fist-bumped all the way back to the media center. Now we would be in the dark again. A 15- to 20-minute walk from the 15th hole meant we’d miss the 16th hole and probably catch him back up on 17 green, we figured.

The end result

I let out some mini fist-bumps as I got back to my desk in the media center to see Zalatoris had parred 16 and 17 and now just needed to par 18 to finish comfortably inside the top 20. Little did I know that he missed a four-footer for birdie on 16. That didn’t matter … our sole focus here was the top-20 bet.

We let out a quiet fist-pump in the media center as Zalatoris’ three-under round was posted. That 69 moved him to even-par for the tournament, which was good for T-12 at the moment. That would safely secure a full payout on the top-20 bet.

As I wrote about in 2022 at the U.S. Open, there’s nothing like an in-person sweat. It’s just a little different at the Masters without the technology to track it. That’s OK. It makes the win even sweeter when you secure it.