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2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure, Rory McIlroy vs. Brooks Koepka: The Tension Rises

2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure, Rory McIlroy vs. Brooks Koepka: The Tension Rises article feature image

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images. Pictured: Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy

Low punch to front of the green for routine par.

Apparently, that par save was a sign of things to come for McIlroy.

On the par-5 second hole, he has a great birdie chance, but can’t get the putt to fall. On the par-4 third hole, he’s in trouble again, but scrambles to save par. On the par-3 fourth hole, he fires a dart right at the stick, but again can’t convert his birdie attempt.

As you follow the twosome, you can’t help but notice Team McIlroy in attendance, walking the course just like every other spectator, though with a little more at stake.

There’s Gerry, his father. There’s Michael Bannon, his swing coach. There’s Shane Lowry, who missed the cut Friday, double-fisting a few imported beers while blending into the backdrop and casually cheering for his buddy.

You tell yourself that you really shouldn’t eavesdrop, but hey, what else is there to do in between shots? A man you don’t recognize with a thick Irish brogue breaks away from their pack a little and sneers to nobody in particular, “Just a 68. That’s it. Just a 68 will do it.”

You sidle up next to the man, eschewing pleasantries to inquire about his theory.

“I told him he needed to shoot 68,” the man answers, clearly a Team McIlroy insider, though in no mood for introductions. “Birdie the par-5s. Make par on everything else. At worst, he’ll be in a playoff.”

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The par part of the plan was working to perfection, but failing to make birdie on the par-5 second hole means he’ll need to make up for it somewhere else – at least according to this guy.

You’re still thinking about his theory as McIlroy and Koepka approach the eighth hole, the leaderboard that once promised fireworks having been depressingly stagnant so far.

Those fireworks are coming, though. You’re just not sure if you’re in the right place for ‘em.

The joyous buzz that had been in the air two hours earlier has been replaced by a nervous tension. Everyone in attendance on the grounds is unsure of where they should be and who they should be watching at any given moment. You wonder if you should stick with this group or retrace your steps and catch a few glimpses of the three groups behind them.

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