2021 Masters: Sunday at the Augusta muni

The final round of the 2021 Masters was one extended six-hour marathon golf truism. You remember some wise guy at the local muni telling you, ‘they don’t ask how, just how many.’? That was Sunday at the Masters.

Hideki Matsuyama somehow emerged with the Green Jacket despite coming home in 39 with four back nine bogeys. He played with the kind of shot-making variety you can see any Sunday on any muni in America: two sand traps, one deflection off a tree, two flown greens (one into a pond), a lost ball, three missed greens and a three-putt.

He won because everybody else who counted did basically the same thing. In fact you wouldn’t be far wrong calling this the Muni Masters. Any of the 10 players who began the day within seven strokes of Matsuyama could have caught or passed him by doing what Matsuyama himself did Saturday, turning in a 65.

Instead, none of the 10 managed better than 70, and collectively they averaged 72.3.

It wasn’t that Augusta played especially difficult, save for that Sunday at the Masters thing. The 72.63 field stroke average was essentially unchanged from Saturday’s 72.43, and lower than Thursday’s first round.

But the only person who could mount anything resembling a consistent charge was Jon Rahm, who shot 66. And since Rahm began the day 11 strokes back, his score merely lifted him into a tie for fifth in the final accounting.

Obviously Xander Schauffele had the most to cry about Sunday night. Playing alongside Matsuyama, Schauffele shot 72. That’s what it added up to, anyway.

But there was almost nothing 72ish about Schauffele’s 72. It included seven birdies, two bogeys, a double and a triple. The latter came when Schauffele, having just strung together four of his birdies to move within two strokes of the faltering Matsuyama, stepped up to the tee at 16 and promptly dunked one in the pond, then flew the green from the drop zone.

It was not the first time Sunday that Schauffele pushed himself to the precipice of contention, then chucked it. He missed the green with a short iron on one, then got up and down for par. On two, he drove into the pine straw and salvaged birdie. On three he nearly drove the green, then basically pitched sideways and took bogey.

He went pine straw a second time on five, chipped out, flew his approach into a downhill line in a bunker and failed to get out, resulting in his double. A third trip to the pine straw on 11 proved harmless, and set up the building drama of the four straight birdies at 12 through 15 that presaged the disaster at 16.

That is all added up to even par 72 was a triumph of math over logic, which of course is one of the beguiling characteristics of golf, whether played at a muni or at the Augusta National.