AUGUSTA, Ga. – No cellphones are allowed on the grounds of Augusta National. Same with small radios. There are no public address announcements, no video boards and no replays.
News during play at the Masters travels just a few ways. There's word-of-mouth. There are cheers from another part of the course roaring through the pines – the decibel range is birdie, eagle, Tiger. Or there is having a player climb into the top 10 for the tournament and thus have their name and score appear on one of the half dozen or so hand-operated scoreboards that dot the course.
To come to the Masters is to step into the 1920s, which is much of the appeal. And when people ask what makes this event unique, well, here is a snapshot of it far from the television cameras or green jacket contention.
Gary Woodland's first 10 holes here Saturday, where he shot a blistering seven under, to occur in old-school, romantic fashion. It allows thrilling, out-of-nowhere runs of greatness (even if eventually doomed) to electrify a tournament that, well, was desperate for something.It's a place that produces moments like
Woodland teed off at 10:55 a.m. (ET), hours before the leaders, sitting at 3-over par. It was a Saturday here with no Tiger Woods, no Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy playing with an Augusta National member. Thus far, this isn't exactly the most exciting Masters of all time.
Dan Woodland, Gary's father, estimated there were about 20 to 25 people following his son, basically friends and family, just proud to see their guy make the cut and play on the weekend of this event.
Gary birdied No. 1. Then he eagled No. 2, to go even for the event. The cheers grew beyond a murmur. By the time he birdied No. 6, people all over the course started talking.
Gary Woodland is on fire.
Cool. Who is Gary Woodland?
Well, the 29 year old, one-time Division II basketball player from Topeka, Kan., has two career tour victories. So he isn't exactly a household name.
When he birdied No. 8 to get to 2-under, he was an Augusta National name though, and inside this bubble that's all that matters. Who cares who he is; he was making a move.
"It was awesome," Woodland said, "It was a zone you want to be in. … I was trying to birdie every hole."
That included No. 9, which he birdied to post a 30 on the front nine, tying a tournament record.
"That's pretty cool," Woodland said later.
The roars kept growing with each successive score, the kind that draw in curious fans from other holes who have no idea exactly what is happening, only that something is happening.
The birdie on No. 8 moved him into the top 10, which meant his name was thrown up on those big scoreboards, spreading the word of what was breaking out. From all over the grounds fans could see that this guy went from three over to four under in just 10 holes. So now they were headed to join the galleries, which kept growing and growing.
"I felt the momentum," Woodland said. "It was definitely getting louder and louder. I was definitely feeding off that."
Because of the low-tech nature of Augusta, this phenomenon only occurs if you make a run on the front nine, or at least through the turn. The scoreboards need time to adjust.
Rickie Fowler (67) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (66) each enjoyed equally strong runs on Saturday, but because their moves came during the final holes, they didn't get up on the scoreboard and generate the buzz until it was essentially too late to watch them.
That's what makes this place like nowhere else and, as Woodland said, just pretty cool.
Even when he was white-hot, the chances of Gary Woodland winning the Masters wasn't particularly high. That wasn't the entire point though. For an hour or so here, long before the national television broadcast started, he was the story of the tournament.
The ultimate dream is to win, but playing some of the greatest golf of his life on a Saturday at Augusta National isn't a bad consolation.
"It's the Masters," Dan Woodland said as he watched his son. "And for me, it all goes back to seeing the sacrifice he makes in his life (to play at this level)."
Now the anonymous golfer who started the day with a forgettable score was playing in front of some of the biggest galleries of the event; fans standing three deep along the ropes, straining their necks for a peak. Dan Woodland had only one complaint.
"It makes it tough to see," he said with a laugh. "I get greedy."
On the 10th hole, Woodland birdied again, moving to 7-under for the day and 4-under for the event. He was now well ahead of the pace to beat the Masters record of 63 for a round, held by Nick Price and Greg Norman, who did it in 1986 and 1996, respectively.
This was getting ridiculous. He was 4-under for the event and in that moment tied for second place behind Bubba Watson.
That meant more fans and it getting even harder for Dan Woodland to see.
And then it all came undone. Golf is a fickle game, and a bogey on 11 dropped him back to 3-under. A double bogey on 12 doomed him to 1-under. He birdied 13 but then bogeyed 14. At 18 he gave another shot back. He ended just three under for the day and even for the tournament. He shot a bizarre 30-39.
"I've just got to ride it," he said, trying to shrug it off and take the long view. "I shot a 3-under."
By the end of his round, the swell watching Gary Woodland had receded. They'd peeled off to see Watson and the other leaders, who had begun the front nine. Or they headed to get a good seat at Amen Corner. Or they just stopped caring and went looking for excitement somewhere else.
As Gary Woodland walked off the 18th green, now just even for the tournament and no longer in the top 10, workers were pulling his name off the scoreboard.
It was as if his round never happened, like that brilliant stretch of golf never occurred. That's the Masters, though – mini moments that can light Augusta National up like nothing else.
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