The dreaded weather finally reached the Masters and a few poor trees

The dreaded weather finally reached the Masters and a few poor trees

AUGUSTA, Ga. — A tradition unlike any other, that of talking about the weather, has had a heyday this week, with Augusta and its visitors openly dreading the cold and wet forecast starting Friday. Then the forecast starting Friday began coming true by Friday afternoon, and the temperature plummeted by Friday night, and the 87th Masters took on a leader board that got hard to read especially if anyone visited a beer stand.

Then a tree fell on these pristine grounds, and everybody heard it.

With the first suspension of play shortly after 3 p.m. Friday and a second and final one about an hour after that, players wound up all over the place in terms of the designated path to 72 holes. Leader Brooks Koepka had finished the scheduled 36 holes at 12 under par, while second-place Jon Rahm had finished 27 at 9 under, while amateur Sam Bennett at 8 under and Collin Morikawa at 6 under had completed a full 36, but then Viktor Hovland, also 6 under after starting the day up top beside Koepka and Rahm, had completed 28.

Amateur Sam Bennett on the Masters leader board? You’ve got to be kidding.

Augusta National might have committed optimism when it scheduled the resumption of the second round for 8 a.m. Saturday.

The two-time major champion Morikawa sounded quaint Friday afternoon as the wind had begun its business and he said, “I just found out that I’ve only made two bogeys” while “managing my game piece by piece,” an art that should grow harder in various ways. A prospective Saturday of rain and cold and a Sunday of chill sounded suboptimal for spectators but even more so for Tiger Woods, who stood at 2 over after 29 holes, the same score he held Thursday after 18, and whose repaired leg prefers temperatures higher than the high-40s business projected for Saturday and the high-50s turn seen for Sunday.

Those who did not finish Friday did not speak publicly, of course, but Rory McIlroy joined in that silence even though he did finish, even as he might have wished he had not. His deeply leaky 5 over, dressed garishly with a 77 on Friday, meant this Masters will mark his 31st straight major without a win after he won four of the 15 held between mid-2011 and late 2014. It will become his seventh missed cut in that 31-major span, all after saying Tuesday with reason, “I feel like I am as good, if not better, a player, as I was the last time I won a major championship.”

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The 2015 champion and 2016 near-champion, Jordan Spieth, stood at 5 under and finished (69-70), while 2022 British Open runner-up Cameron Young stood at 5 under but didn’t, having gotten through 10 holes Friday and 28 all told. Sam Burns got to 5 under with Spieth and Young and finished (68-71) and then, asked for any memories that might help with weather, said, “I don’t know anything in particular.”

Scottie Scheffler, the 2022 champion aiming to become only the fourth champion to repeat, did finish, but he wound up lost in the fray at 1 under par after a 75.

In the category of players who might have wished the wind and rain would have come earlier, 2015 PGA Championship winner and former No. 1 Jason Day might rank No. 1 in this, too. He reached No. 15 at 9 under and careened to 5 under by the end, then responded to a question about a swing and whether he “deceled” on it with “Do you think I deceled?” He didn’t think he deceled.

Those at 4 under par included Phil Mickelson, of all people, the formerly popular three-time champion who had finished (with 71-69); 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, who had finished (with 68-72); and 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, who had finished (69-71) but also 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott, who was through 28 holes, and 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, who was through 32.

The day reached a dramatic turn after 4 p.m. when a massive Georgia pine tree between the 16th green and the 17th tee gave way to incoming wind and rain and toppled, slowly enough that the sound and sight of it chased all spectators from potential harm, even while making for considerable video. Three trees wound up damaged in the process, according to Augusta National Golf Club.

By 4:45 p.m., workers from the club had dragged out the chain saws to dismantle the fallen trees. Though the pine was not inside the ropes where there would have been no fans, the people near it were able to scatter before it finished its fall. Both the club and nearby witnesses reported no injuries.

“A miracle,” said a security guard who saw the incident.

Augusta National has a reputation for quick erasure of any evidence of damage. In 2012, overnight storms between two practice days felled several trees across the property, but by the time fans returned to the course the next morning, little evidence of destruction remained.

Barry Svrluga contributed to this report.

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