Notes from Augusta National: The 2016 Masters Tournament

Before writing about our thoughts on seeing Augusta National and our experience as a patron, we thought we’d just add a few notes on the dramatic final round of The 2016 Masters.

Aussie Golfer was lucky enough to be in attendance at the 2016 Masters last weekend. We’ll expand a little on Augusta National and the tournament experience early next week, but for now we thought we’d kick things off with a few notes about the 2016 Masters itself.

Danny Willett’s 5-under par victory was the second lowest winning score in the last 26 years giving you some indication how difficult the conditions were at Augusta this year. The gusty winds that played havoc on Saturday had largely abated by the beginning of the final round offering up plenty more roars from the gallery, particularly on the par-3 16th where three aces were made on Sunday.

But the undulation of the golf course still means that pockets of the property have their own micro-climates where winds seems to swirl up out of nowhere and temperatures are drastically different. Particularly at Amen Corner.

We followed Adam Scott around for his round on Saturday, and for the first nine holes of his round on Sunday. It wasn’t just one aspect of Scott’s game that you can pinpoint for his disappointing tie for 42nd and 11-over par tournament total – his whole game looked rusty. Scott seemed to be scrambling for par on almost every hole, making just nine birdies all week.

Danny Willett
When world number 12 Danny Willett came through Amen Corner, we remarked that he was still yet to make a bogey. A nifty par at the difficult 11th hole meant Willett had made par on the hardest hole at Augusta National in every round. A solid tee shot to the 12th had Willett looking strong, but no one really had any idea that in just a few more holes, he would be outright leader.

The biggest question is whether the 2016 Masters will be remembered more for Willett’s sensational final round or Jordan Spieth’s 12th hole collapse. Whatever the case, it’s clear the Willett won the golf tournament once given the opportunity. His birdies at 13, 14 and 16 were superb but his approach shot the 18th green (which is much smaller that it looks on TV) was clearly from a golfer who can handle the pressure and deserves to be Masters champion.

He took off his jumper before making his final putt too. Nice preparation before donning a jacket. Don’t want to get too hot.

Jordan Spieth
“Where were you when Jordan Spieth made that quadruple-bogey at the 12th?”. It was the question being asked between patrons as the final hour of The Masters unfolded.

I was on the 13th hole. Having cheered on Jason Day for most of the day, we realised it wasn’t going to be two majors in a row for the world number one so we elected to catch the rest of the field come through the iconic par-5. Soon after Danny Willett, Lee Westwood, Hideki Matsuyama and the youthful Bernard Langer had been and gone, rumours begun circulating of some trouble for Spieth. Some suggested he had found water at the 12th suggesting a double-bogey was likely. Some chose not to believe just yet.

In the absence of phones and any immediate information, the staff working the leaderboards at Augusta National respectfully wait until all golfers in the area have moved on before changing the scores in case the numbers provoke an audible response from the patrons. I’ve never heard a response like the one when Spieth’s score changed.

Spieth’s score was 5 (5-under) on hole 11 and now the attendant had opened the slot to update his cumulative total after the 12th. The small door was slammed shut with a red ‘1’ in place, indicating Spieth was now at 1-under par.

Time felt like it almost slowed to a stop as we all took a while to process the score. Then the collective gasp came. It sent shivers up everybody’s spine. With Spieth running away from the field we’d all conceded we would not experience the tense atmosphere that can envelope the final nine holes of The Masters. All that had now changed.

It’s incredible to think Spieth lost despite making seven birdies on the final day, four on the par-5s. He copped some criticism for his demeanour during the jacket presentation but we thought under the circumstances he was all class and can’t wait to see how Spieth backs up from this heartbreaking day. We’re set for an intriguing next few majors.

Jason Day
The world number one got off to a flying start on Thursday and was 5-under par through his first nine holes, but that’s where the run stopped for Day who just couldn’t get things going again after finding the water on the 16th and carding a triple-bogey. Following Day around on Sunday, he hit some very poor shots that normally he would eat up, the approach to the 10th a prime example. After sitting pretty in the middle of the fairway, Day pulled a short iron well left and couldn’t get up-and-down.

Good sources tell me that Day wasn’t 100% throughout the week. He was taking medication to ward off a nasty bug and had muscle fatigue for several days. In light of this, his T10 was a pretty decent effort and explains some of Day’s uncharacteristic shots over the weekend. Day will put this one behind him quickly. Look for him to fire – and possibly win again in the coming months.

Dustin Johnson
Paired with Day in the final round, we expected Dustin Johnson to fire and so we followed these two until the 13th hole, then watched them play the 15th and 18th holes. Johnson missed six decent birdie opportunities on Sunday and it’s tempting to say his round could have been anything. But Johnson is making a habit of messing up on the final day of majors.

Johnson’s father-in-law, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky had a look of disgust on his face for much of the day and looked furious after the round. There is a common thought that DJ doesn’t work hard enough, or care enough to win one of the big ones. But it wasn’t like Johnson messed this one up, he just couldn’t get the putter going. His approach to the 15th was one incredible golf shot. We’re confident Johnson will contend in more majors, time will tell if he has the grit to win one.

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