Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)

The green jacket

What's it like to miss the Masters cut and wait around for the green jacket ceremony? Dustin Johnson found out

April 14, 2021

Kevin C. Cox

There's always been something strange about the fact that after a year, the Masters winner can no longer keep his green jacket anywhere but at Augusta National itself. At other championships, you at least get a replica of the trophy (and there is one for the Masters, too), but we can count this as one of the ways in which the tournament is, like it or not, special.

Which means that for a defending champion who won't repeat, there is something bittersweet in giving up the jacket you've kept for a full year—a jacket which is the famous symbol for one of the greatest possible achievements in the sport—and having to bid goodbye, doomed to only see it for a few days each spring that follows. (Of course, you can make up for this lost time by doing what Billy Casper did, which is to ask for and receive permission to be buried in the jacket.)

In a year when the defending champion makes the cut, it usually happens quickly, and that's some consolation. You finish your round on Sunday, wait around for a bit, present the jacket to the new winner in Butler Cabin, and you're on your way. But what happens when you miss the cut, but you can't go home? When you have to hang around for a full weekend just to commemorate the moment when you are officially no longer the champ?

On Wednesday at the RBC Heritage, where he’s playing this week, Dustin Johnson was asked the simple question first: What it felt like to have part with the green jacket on Sunday after Hideki Matsuyama's victory.

"I mean, I would have liked to have kept it, but yeah, I've got one, so it still felt good," he said. "I enjoyed being their champion for five months. I don't care how long it was for, it's still cool. I'm always going to be a Masters champion."

Well said, but the more interesting topic came when asked what he did all weekend. As it turned out, after feeling more than a little annoyed at how poorly he putted to miss the cut, he spent most of Saturday bored and frustrated, and eventually went back to Augusta National to hit a few balls. Sunday, wanting to avoid a repeat, he headed to Champions Retreat in Evans, Ga., for a morning round.

"I was just bored, so I went out and played," he said, in his usual succinct fashion.

When another reporter asked him if he thought about asking Augusta National to let him skip the ceremony—a laughable idea—he was quick to make his position clear.

"No, I would not do that," he said. "Yeah, no, I would never have asked. It's an honor to be part of the ceremony, and so I was happy to stay and be a part of it."

The Sunday round killed a few of the morning hours. He arrived back at Augusta around 5:30, when he got dressed for the ceremony, watched the tournament on TV, and then placed the new jacket on the back of Matsuyama. When he left Augusta that night, his own jacket stayed, and now there's only one way—a very hard way, but also a very rewarding one—to get it off the grounds again.