AUGUSTA, Ga. – The long walk from the 10th green through the woods to the 11th tee is one of the longer ones that golfers encounter at Augusta National, and so many of the great legends of golf have made it during one era or another.
But to walk to the 11th tee and be 7 under par? At Augusta National?
That’s walking some hallowed turf.
“I was slowing down a little bit, trying to catch my breath,” Gary Woodland said. “I was in a groove. I mean, I had it going.”
He sure did. Out in 6-under 30, which tied the tournament record, followed by a wedge to kick-in range for another birdie at the 495-yard 10th. His gallery was expanding. There was a buzz. Two easy par-5 holes were still to play. The shared course record at Augusta National (Nick Price, Greg Norman) is 63. Was this the day someone would eclipse it? Really, a 59 Watch at The National. Sounds outrageous, and for a while, it was.
“He put a rush into this place,” said Dan Woodland, Gary’s dad. “There were more and more people out there. It would have been nice to camouflage his score or something.”
The kid, for his part, appeared unfazed by it all.
“I was pretty much zoned in, I wasn’t hearing what people were saying,” Gary Woodland said. “I could hear it getting louder, that was about it.”
And then, the sounds a player does not want to hear at Augusta. Groans. The first arrived down in Amen Corner when he left a 20-foot putt from off the green woefully short, leading to a three-putt bogey. And then the killer. Woodland went with wedge off the tee at the tantalizing 155-yard 12th hole, taking aim at the left-side hole location.
Having just knocked his approach a little long at 11, and knowing adrenaline was kicking in, he took a little off the swing. The ball bounded into the steep bank, and rolled back into Rae’s Creek, where many good rounds go to die. His pitch nearly rolled back, too, and Woodland walked off with a double-bogey 5. He’d make two more bogeys on the way in, and though 69 on a Saturday at the Masters is nothing to blush over, it wasn’t quite the number he had in mind.
“I was trying to birdie every hole,” said Woodland, who ended the day at even-par 216. “On 11 I hit a shot that I thought I had a pretty good chance to make birdie; 12 was just short. And birdied 13 (reaching in two shots). I was trying to ride the momentum coming in.”
As for wanting to bottle up those first 10 holes?
“It was a zone that you want to be in,” he said, “and hopefully I get back in that zone tomorrow.”
Having driven the ball poorly in shooting 77 in Round 2, Woodland put in a little extra work on the practice tee late Friday and figured a few things out. He came out aggressively Saturday, hitting driver on more holes than he had previously. His payoff came in a birdie-eagle start, and in many more good birdie looks.
Given his finish, and given that he shot 39 coming home, it would have been easy to leave the grounds disappointed Saturday, but he simply wouldn’t allow it.
“I’ve just got to ride it,” Woodland said. “I shot 3 under and go. I need some help from the guys in front of me. But hopefully I can go have a low one tomorrow and see where it stands.”