In fact, some
competitors clearly wished they were somewhere more hospitable, like Hades.
After making the cut on the number at eight over, the highest since 1982, Lee
Westwood was so down in the mouth he was asked if he still liked the Masters.
"Not anymore," he said. "It asks too many questions that there is
not an answer to. Sometimes even a perfect shot is not good enough."
For 15 holes of the
second round Johnson had solved Augusta National's riddles; he was two under
for the day and at 16 had a three-footer for birdie that would have given him a
two-stroke lead. But Johnson missed the putt and the comebacker too, and the
demoralizing bogey was followed by two more as he skidded to a 73 and into a
tie for fourth, two back of coleaders Wetterich and Tim Clark and one behind
Augusta native Vaughn Taylor, the only players under par. Afterward Johnson
chalked up his disappointing finish to being "Augustaized," yet he was
strangely upbeat. "My game is there," he said. "I feel confident in
what I'm doing."
Of course, that was
before the weather became downright sadistic. Saturday dawned with temperatures
in the 30s, and gusts throughout the day reached 23 mph. To keep the course
from becoming unplayable Ridley and the boys moved up the tees, used most of
the easiest pin positions and watered the greens, but the third round still
turned into one of the most carnage-filled days in Masters history. Playing in
the final group, Clark and Wetterich had a better-ball score of 76 as neither
made a birdie en route to scores of 80 and 83, respectively.
By day's end the
field's scoring average of 77.35 made it the ugliest Saturday since 1956.
Despite a triple bogey at the 17th, Stuart Appleby was leading at two over par,
the highest score ever for a 54-hole Masters leader. One stroke back was Woods,
who had played a nearly flawless round until he limped home with back-to-back
bogeys. Johnson was one back of Woods, holding on to fourth despite a 76 that
included only one birdie. "I was just happy to finish," Johnson said.
"It was so cold on the last five or six holes, I could barely feel my
On Sunday warmer
temperatures and greens that had been further softened overnight led to a
front-nine shootout that at one point featured a six-way tie for the lead.
Overpowering the par-5s has always been the blueprint for success at the
Masters, and multiple winners such as Palmer, Nicklaus, Woods and Mickelson
have had that luxury. Johnson resolved at the start of the week to lay up on
every par-5, and on the 13th hole he had the discipline to stick to his game
plan even though he was only 216 yards out. Johnson's caution led to some
clucking on the CBS telecast, but he stuffed his wedge shot, and the ensuing
birdie gave him the outright lead at two over. (For the week he would play the
par-5s in 11 under, two shots better than Woods.) From there Johnson put the
hammer down, with aggressive iron shots leading to birdies at 14 and 16, the
latter stretching his lead to three strokes. More remarkable than Johnson's
fearless play was the utter comfort he projected.
Said Kim, "With
it being Easter and our faith being so strong, I felt eerily calm, and I could
see that in Zach too."
partner, Taylor, had another read: "He's a tough guy. He showed a lot of
The magnitude of
what he was about to achieve finally caught up with Johnson on 17, where he
made a bogey from in front of the green. But a shaky approach to 18 was
redeemed with a gorgeous chip to within inches of the cup for the par that set
up Johnson's waiting game in the locker room.
Long after he had
bid adieu to Becker, Johnson repaired to Butler Cabin for a private party with
his family and friends. When he walked through the door, Kim squealed,
"Don't you just look so handsome in green!" Zach met his father in the
middle of the room, and they embraced for at least 20 seconds. Dave was the
best kind of Little League dad, a positive booster known for rarely missing one
of his three kids' practices, let alone games. On Sunday night he was walking
around with a dazed look. "I am in complete, utter shock," he said.
Taking it all in
was Larry Gladson, the head pro at Elmcrest who had flown in that morning. In
his mind's eye Johnson was still a 10-year-old range rat. Gladson's scouting
report on the young Zach: "Great kid, squeaky clean." And the course
that nurtured him? "Short, tight, tree-lined, with sloping greens. It
demands a great short game and accurate driving. Sounds familiar,