Masters 2022: 'Felt like I just came out of 10 rounds with Canelo.' Brutal winds batter Masters field
Sungjae Im of looks on from the 18th green as sand blows in the wind during the second round of the Masters.
AUGUSTA, Ga. — He was standing at a dais situated on a golf course, but the way Sergio Garcia spoke and the way the Spaniard looked it didn’t take much imagination to picture Garcia slumped on a barstool in a ring, his corner men stitching up a bloodied eye and squirting water into a busted lip.
“I don't know. I don't know,” Garcia said, sounding very much like a punch-drunk pugilist. “I felt like I played fairly well. I shot 74. I feel like I shot 86. I don't know. It just felt like I just came out of 10 rounds with Canelo [Alvarez, the heavyweight champ]. So, it was hard.”
For ground held as sacred and known for evoking celestial tones, whatever theology was to be had at Augusta National Friday afternoon was far from spiritual. Instead it was biblical, of the fire-and-brimstone variety, strong winds and firm greens battering most of the Masters field. The results were high scores and (mostly) heavy congestion on the board as the tournament turns to the weekend.
"The wind is just all over the place," said Matt Fitzpatrick after a one-over 73. "It's gusting, and then there's no wind, and, yeah, it's just crazy. It's a difficult one to describe. You have to experience it. It's a tough one because you can hit a great shot and then all of a sudden you get a gust, and you look like a complete amateur."
Day 2’s scoring average checked in at 74.61, the highest single round average at the Masters in five years. Frankly, it could have been worse, but the gusts died down over the final two hours, and as the breeze went down so did the scores. The afternoon wave posted a 74.30 mark that was a half-stroke better against the morning group’s 74.89. Or maybe that variance is merely the byproduct of Scottie Scheffler, who turned in a five-under 67 to take a five-shot advantage, equaling the largest 36-hole lead in Masters history. Although there is word Scheffler may be disqualified as tournament officials investigate if he is man and not a cyborg created to destroy all in its path.
The final groups aside, Augusta National was no playground. It wasn’t confused for a U.S. Open: bad drives weren’t punished, the leader board had more than just black and no one uttered “good bogey” in sincerity. It was also fair. Good approach shots held, balls were not oscillating, putts did not roll endlessly off greens. Yet it was tough and unrelenting and diabolical. After all, Augusta is a nuanced test no matter the conditions. Add incessant gusts and unyielding surfaces to the recipe and what comes off the grill is a slab of charred golfers wondering if they should have gone into another profession.
“Yeah, it was a challenge today,” said Patrick Reed, author of a one-over 73. “You had the wind pumping, and it was gusty and kind of swirling, and I think that's what makes this place so difficult, is when it starts gusting. It's one thing if it stays consistent blowing 10, 15, 20. If it's just constant blow, that's fine. … The wind could be going one way, but then once it hits those trees, it turns, and you feel something completely different where you're at.”
“The wind is not making it easy,” echoed Collin Morikawa. “It's a lot of guessing, a lot of just trusting what you are going to do, but it's weird.”
A round like this can be told in numbers, and if you want eye-popping figures you can find them at the two recently lengthened holes, the 11th and 15th. The 520-yard par-4 11th surrendered just two birdies against a whopping 36 bogeys and 10 doubles or worse, while the 550-yard par-5 15th played over par, a fact so ridiculous we will repeat to give you time to pick your jaw off the floor. A par 5, in 2022, played over par. Golf purists everywhere are nodding with a tear running down their cheek. There were more scores in the 80s than there were in the 60s, quick-outs from perennial Masters favorite Jordan Spieth and stars like Brooks Koepka, Sam Burns and Xander Schauffele. But a day like this is best told in imagery.
Danny Willett shot a 74 in the second round of the Masters.
Those at home likely saw TV shot after TV shot of flags in yoga poses in the wind, and aesthetically striking as those pictures can be it did not do the conditions justice. Players are usually a stoic bunch, their emotions concealed with blank expressions and straightforward stares. On Friday they could not mask their bewilderment and agitation, their animus, their sense of resignation, maybe because those masks blew off on the driving range. There were indigent gazes into the pines as if the pines had given them the wrong directions and defeated beams into the ground knowing they shouldn’t have asked in the first place.
There was Tiger Woods at the third, hitting his approach from 120 yards out. It seemed OK at contact. Then it touched the sky and Woods could be heard saying, “Wow, look at that thing” as his ball went sideways, landing some 15 yards right off the pin. Woods laughed, because what else could he do?
There was Hudson Swafford at the 12th, hitting what appeared to be a safe shot only to see his ball slingshot to the left, coming to rest on the turf walkway from the Hogan Bridge to Golden Bell green.
There was Tyrrell Hatton delivering a bras d'honneur, also known as the “Italian salute” to his ball, seemingly upset at having to (checks notes) lay up at the par-5 15th. Also at the 15th was Francesco Molinari, contemplating if he should go for the green or lay back. The former Open champ was two under on his day, bouncing back from a Thursday 78. You could tell Molinari wanted to go for it. Thought he needed to go for it. The wind did not abide, so he laid up. He hit his third in the water. Double. Molinari did not make the weekend.
Even Dustin Johnson, the cat who runs on cool, said he was forced to grind. When Dustin Johnson is sweating you know it’s a mighty hot cauldron.
“This is a little different because it's going from 8-to-10 [mph] to about 25 in a blink,” added Will Zalatoris, who sits in a tie for 10th. “We were waiting out a lot of shots today. I had to stay super patient and make sure we got the right wind. You get one that might be a little down or a little into, and you could be off by 20 yards.
“It's brutal out there.”
It should stay brutal on Saturday, with cold temperatures and more wind and even firmer greens. Which, frankly, is just fine. There are plenty of weeks where the course is painted in red with easily reachable par 5s and wedge after wedge into green. It was only 17 months ago here that Johnson set a tournament-record mark at 20 under. Sometimes it's fun to watch others suffer.
Certainly, the gallery didn’t seem to mind. A mighty gale hit the trio of Stewart Cink, Harry Higgs and Brian Harman on their way to the 12th, forcing Cink to hold onto his hat so it wouldn’t fly into the grandstands.
“Can you imagine trying to play into this?” asked a female patron sitting behind the 12th box, a question directed at nobody.
“No,” replied a man seated in front of her, turning around to smile. “But I don’t mind watching it.”
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