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This year’s November Masters was like no other we have seen before. From mudballs galore, to a record-breaking low score from winner Dustin Johnson. Cameron Smith, who finished T2 and broke records as well, will be thinking that he must be the unluckiest person following the weekend’s golfing action.

Had it not been for Johnson’s exceptional play, the winner could have been very different. Smith was the first player ever to score in the 60’s for all four rounds. His final day 69 was one of the lowest on the final day. For saying that this was the Australian’s first Masters, he played fantastically.

Unfortunately for Smith, his -15 is the lowest score not to win in Masters history. It is not the statistic that he would want to hear, but certainly a great accomplishment and one that he can use for later years. It would not surprise to see his tally of two PGA Tour victories to improve in 2021.

Smith showed confidence and composure on his Sunday round. A daring approach shot on the 7th hole over the pines caught the green and fell perfectly to 6 feet. He made the birdie putt to take him to -14.

His shot of the round came on the 9th hole. Again finding himself off the fairway, Smith fired an iron to the green. It caught the side of the green and ran on and rolled inches to the hole. Yet again he would make birdie and apply pressure to Johnson.  

Smith could have claimed his first major had it not been for Johnson’s fantastic performance. There haven’t been many performances as good as the American’s at The Masters before.

Something else that hasn’t been seen at The Masters before is the amount of mudballs which occurred.

Due to the heavy rain as day one started, play was stopped for three hours. This soaked up the course and, although the remainder of the days were dry and clear, the heavy rain put a lot of stress on the drainage system.

This made the greens firm and allowed players to attack the course, unlike in other years. It also meant that there were a lot of mudballs over the four days. A repeated cry of ‘mudball’ was heard from every player as the balls were cut and drawn into greenside bunkers.

This gave off an annoying sense of arrogance from the players. Demanding for their balls to be perfectly clean to hit the perfect shots. Unfortunately this is not what happens in golf.

The mud was one of the few uncontrollable factors that happened to be at play during the week. Far too much of a fuss was made about it. There were even complaints from players about mudballs on par threes. Tiger Woods’ 10 on the 12th was probably all down to the most minuscule amount of mud on the ball.

Most of the time there was not much mud on the ball and the players made themselves look stupid.

Playing devil’s advocate, it can be frustrating to see the best players unable to play their best shots due to mud. As spectators of the game, we want to see the best play at their best and pull off shots that we can only image of playing. This is the beauty of the sport and to not be able to see this due to mud is just as frustrating.     

Ultimately, it was a big cry about nothing from the players. They were still able to produce, with record scores across the leaderboard. Especially with the torrential rain that occurred in day one, it was to be expected.    

The mudballs did not stop Johnson setting an Augusta National lowest after 72 holes. His -20 score resulted in his first green jacket and second major championship.

The world number one was the favourite for many, and rightly so. His last seven competitions dating from the start of August have seen him win three and come second three times. The U.S. Open is his highest finish in that time, T6 in a major championship is by no means an embarrassment.

Johnson did not have it all his way on his final round, though. His two bogeys on four and five put him +1 for the round and gave the chasing pack hope. His four shot lead was cut to two and with Amen Corner still to come later in the round, things could have gotten worse for DJ.

But like the true professional his is, he dug in. Birdies on six and eight helped him regain his lead and provided him with the confidence to close in style.

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April 2024