2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure: The 18th Green
Peter Dazeley, Getty Images.
Stay at Augusta National, but claim a spot near the 18th green.
Your first-ever trip to the Masters has felt like that break-up with your college flame. It’s not you, it’s me. Maybe we can still be friends. They say this tournament is tough for rookies lacking experience, but that’s supposed to relate to the players, not the patrons.
Maybe there’s a strong analogy, though, you wonder while making a beeline for the 18th green. It’s not as if you’ve done anything wrong today, you just didn’t really do anything right, either. Suddenly, you can sympathize with all those young superstar players over the years who needed multiple trips to Augusta National before they could feel comfortable and contend. You never quite felt comfortable in your role as spectator, second-guessing yourself the entire time. If there was a leaderboard for people with badges, you would’ve missed the cut already.
But of course, there isn’t – and after considering the prospect of leaving for about a nanosecond, you’re not going anywhere. Other than to 18, that is, where something’s gotta happen.
Most of the fans around the green have been here since the gates opened at 8 a.m., taking a brisk walk on a direct line for this spot, where they placed their chairs, then walked around the course for a while knowing their seats would still be there when they returned – a tradition unlike any other, as they say.
You can’t get too close, but you’re able to wiggle your way against the gallery rope and get a decent view of what’s taking place. You watch about 5-6 groups come through, each player removing his hat and shaking his head as he bro-hugs his playing partner, their body language saying, “Whew, I’m glad that’s over…”
Finally, it’s time for the contenders. You started your day watching the twosome of McIlroy and Koepka, and as it turns out, you still might witness their best stuff of the day. Each has played solid, if not spectacular, but they’re right in it on a jam-packed leaderboard.
You watch as Rory holes a 20-footer for birdie – on almost the exact same line as Phil Mickelson’s winning putt in his first Masters victory back in 2004 – then Brooks throws in a 15-footer on top of him. Big smiles all around – from them and from the spectators who were proven smart by hanging around the final green.
The next three groups can’t match their red numbers. A par here, a bogey there – one by one, they clump off the last green, thinking about those missed opportunities during the round.
When the last group has finished, the scoreboard shows a tie at the top – McIlroy and Koepka, the rivalry replenished, facing off in a playoff.
You have a perfect seat for a little déjà vu. Once again, McIlroy is 20 feet away for birdie, the same line on which he made his putt just over an hour earlier. The crowd is decidedly pro-Rory now and when he makes the putt yet again, bedlam ensues. Brand new Masters caps are being thrown into the darkening Augusta sky with aplomb, even if that’s a premature celebration.
Koepka again has a 15-foot birdie attempt. This one would extend the playoff. You watch as it rolls directly toward the hole and stops. Dead in the heart, but short.
McIlroy is the 2020 Masters champion, an occasion so momentous that you decide to stick around and see what he looks like in a green jacket, watching the post-Butler Cabin ceremony on the practice green.
You’re not the only one. Almost nobody leaves, the tone of a tense afternoon dissolving into a festive evening. You leave the course happy for Rory, but also happy for yourself.
In your first trip to the Masters, you finally figured it out.