The best player in the world was the most forlorn, the first betting parlor favorite to have his Masters scuttled before it started by a stockinged-feet stumble down a stairwell. Dustin Johnson was the story Thursday morning at Augusta, but his reluctant withdrawal opened the field for a lot of other stories, none more fun than Charley Hoffman’s 7-under 65 in the gusty wind of an Augusta afternoon.
Hoffman, shorn of his long blond hair, hasn’t lost a sense of humor or the look of a guy who isn’t so very impressed with himself, even after his seriously impressive back nine of five birdies in the last seven holes. He was four shots clear of the closest guy and 10 strokes better than the field average.
More wind tomorrow, they’re saying, so will Hoffman keep it up? He won’t shoot 65, it says here, but Nation members, in their special-edition Green Goatees, are predicting he’ll head to Sunday with a chance to win.
Wish he still had the hair. It would have looked cool (and anti-Augusta) whipping in the wind.
Jordan Spieth bollixed No. 15, taking a quadruple-bogey 9 when his third shot to the green spun back and dove into the pond fronting the green. It looked brutal, 15 did, especially with that pin placement in that wind, but it actually is the easiest hole at Augusta by stroke average relative to par.
Watching Spieth’s ball spin into the water put us in mind of Tiger Woods on the same hole in the second round of the 2013 Masters — and the rules controversy that ensued. Woods hit the pin, squarely, with his third shot, and it spun back into the water. Woods took a drop, illegally as it turned out. A television viewer emailed video of Woods’s drop behind his original lie to the green-jacketed ones.
Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty, but didn’t have to absorb another penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. Some people believed a lesser player wouldn’t have gotten off as easily in the same situation. We still wonder, four years later.