Rory McIlroy fired his best-ever round at the Augusta National – a sparkling 8-under-par 64 – to roar out of nowhere for a likely second-place finish in the 86th Master.
McIlroy needed a win in Augusta to complete the career grand slam and insisted his game was “close” after rounds of 73, 73 and 71.
He proved himself correct on Sunday with a masterpiece with five birdies, an eagle and no bogey. He finished with a swing and birdied a bunker on the 18th. In fact, he never played from the grass on the last hole, driving into a fairway bunker and sending his second into the sand on the greenside.
He walked away with onlookers cheering him on with “Rory! Rory! Rory!” Applause.
McIlroy was all smiles after his best lap and finish in 14 Masters tournaments. The 64 achieved the lowest finals score in Masters history.
The round “is what you dream of,” McIlroy said. “To play so well… it’s absolutely amazing. I’ve tried really hard and I can’t ask for more of myself.”
Dustin Johnson highest among SC contingent
As usual, Dustin Johnson led the South Carolina contingent at the Masters.
Johnson, the 2020 champion, started Sunday’s finals 1-over par, turning the turn into a 1-under for the tournament. But his hopes of a spectacular back nine ended on the par-4 11th.
The Colombian native, who grew up in Irmo, drove into the trees to the right of the fairway, which was extended to 520 yards this year. His second stayed on the pine straw and his third rolled into the pond guarding the green. After a penalty, he chipped and made a two-put for 7.
He rallied with birdies on 14 and 15 before bogeying at the end. He hit a final straight par 72 and finished with an over 289.
The other two Palmetto State players, Kevin Kisner and Lucas Glover, started the day 4 over par. Glover, a native of Greenville and Clemson All-American, shot 1 in 73 for a total of 5 in 293. Kisner, a native of Aiken and Star in Georgia, scored a 5 to 77 for a total of 9 to 297.
Glover lost two shots on the par-3 12th after his tee ball landed on the rim before rolling back into Rae’s Creek. After starting birdie birdie, Kisner’s round was solved with a three-putt from five feet on No. 5, resulting in a double bogey.
Varner soaks up his first Masters experiences
Harold Varner III opened his first Masters with a pair of 1-under-par 71s before climbing to an 8-over-80 on Saturday in cold, windy weather.
Submit on Sunday? No chance.
Instead, he scored a 3-under-69 for a four-round total of 3-over-291.
“You do what competitors do; you answer,” said Varner, who grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina and lives in Charlotte. “I think if you do that in life, you’ll go far.”
The experience of his first master whetted his appetite for more.
“It makes me want to win this thing,” he said. “…I just want to win, and winning gets you here. As I keep getting better, I’ll get closer and closer. Keep learning one more time. …”
Jon Rahm ‘just another viewer’ with Tiger Woods
How can the world number 2 become invisible on the golf course?
Game with Tiger Woods, said Jon Rahm.
Sunday’s final round “was great because nobody paid attention to me,” Rahm said after shooting a 3-under par 69 in his pairing with Woods. “I just watched him play. I was just one more spectator and I played well in the end.
“In that sense, it was a big load off my shoulders. I was able to enjoy today as a fan and as a player.”
Rahm, who finished the tournament with 4-over-par 292, welcomed Woods, who shot 6-over-78 for a total of 13-over-301 on Sunday in his first tournament since he was injured in a car accident 14 months ago.
“You just notice that his leg isn’t quite up yet,” said Rahm. “I saw him in the (fitness) truck. He’s limping in the truck. He’s limping on the course. He’s obviously trying really hard to play, but it’s not easy going up and down those hills. At the end you just realize that your leg and your body just aren’t used to running that much, right?
“I believe if he can run at home and build up strength and endurance in that sense he will be able to be competitive again. This is the toughest hike of the year. He will be able to go somewhere that is a little easier to go. It won’t be that long and I think he’ll be able to hold his own.”
Min Woo Lee has a nice final lap
The Lee siblings, Min Woo on the PGA Tour and Minjee on the LPGA circuit, are definitely a pair to avoid in a mixed team scramble.
Min Woo, who won twice on the European (now DP World) Tour in 2021 and earned a Masters invite by ranking 49th in the world, showed his skills with a 6-under-30 in the top nine on Sunday.
He started the day with 4-over par and jumped to 2-under after nine holes, but he played his last nine in four overs for a final 70 and 2-over 290 overall.
The other half of the brother-sister combo, Minjee, is ranked fourth in the women’s world rankings. She won the Evian Championship last year, an LPGA major.
As amateurs, they are the only brother-sister duo to win USGA junior tournaments.
Matsuyama gets an ovation at the champions’ dinner
A quiz with no wrong answer: what is the best of the traditions cherished at the Masters?
On Wednesday, of course, there is the par 3 competition. And the amateurs in the Clubhouse Crow’s Nest. What about the champions dinner and the amateur dinner? The landmarks commemorating great shooters and legendary players. Raes Creek?
Regardless of the choice, it’s a good one, but perhaps one thing stands out more this year: the Champions’ Dinner.
The defending champions hosted the former green jacket winners on Tuesday night of tournament week, and the honors fell Hideki Matsuyama, the first native Japanese to win the first men’s major of the year.
The menu…first course: sushi, sashimi, nigirl, yakitori chicken skewers; Appetizer: Miso Glazed Black Cod and Miyazaki Wagyu Beef Steak with Mixed Mushrooms and Vegetables; Dessert: Japanese strawberry shortcake with chopped cream and amaou strawberries.
“Probably the best thing we’ve ever had,” said Jack Nicklaus, six-time dinner host, Thursday morning.
But the highlight came later.
The 2021 champion speaks some English but prefers to conduct interviews in Japanese through a translator. On Tuesday night, he spoke in English to his fellow players and earned an ovation from the gathering of perhaps golf’s most exclusive fraternity.
“I could tell he was very nervous,” said Tom Watson on Thursday, “but he didn’t miss a word.”
Dustin Johnson, who won in 2020, identified with Matsuyama’s nervousness.
“A little bit, just because it was my first time and of course I was also the host,” Johnson said in his pre-tournament interview. “So definitely a bit nervous, but in a good way. … In the end it was a wonderful dinner.”
It was Tuesday night too.
Special recordings of the 86th master
Unforgettable shots flow like fast mountain steam at the Masters, and the 86th edition followed that pattern.
There’s Stewart Cink’s hole-in-one on the par-3 16 and Charl Schwarzel’s eagle-2 on the par-10 4.
And there’s Bubba again.
In the second round, spectators who wanted the 18thth Green saw two golfers and their caddies trudging up the fairway. Out of nowhere, a golf ball fell from the sky next to the flagstick.
WHO? What? About what?
Bubba Watson, of course.
His hookshot from the trees to set up his playoff win at the 2012 Masters will always be among the most famous of the tournament. But maybe he would have done better this year.
Following his “if I’ve got a swing, I’ve got a shot” philosophy, he followed a terrible drive into the trees at No. 18 with a wedge from an awkward lie through a tiny opening, over the trees and onto the green.
“No one in the world would have attempted that shot,” he said afterwards.
Of course, he tapped in the 2 footer for birdie and added to his Houdini lore in Augusta.
moments for amateurs
University of North Carolina golfer Austin Greaser earned an invitation to this year’s Masters by finishing second at the 2021 US Amateur. He left Augusta National with a treasure trove of memories.
“It’s really hard to pick,” he said after opening for a 2-over-par 74. “I think on 16, 15 or 16 Tiger made 2 on 6 (next to #16) and I don’t know if it was something in my kingdom. But it was cute because I’m playing golf on the same course as Tiger in the same tournament and I hear the roar.”