While all five of the sexagenarians missed the cut this week they still added plenty to the tournament, long may it continue
If you want a quick snapshot of what golf is like for the over-60 at The Masters then this will hopefully set some sort of scene. At the 11th on Friday Jordan Spieth left himself an 8-iron in from 189 yards after not quite catching his tee shot, Ian Woosnam hit a great drive to leave himself a hybrid from 239 yards. Both players made par, one would go on to shoot 68, the other 77 and both will have been as satisfied as the other.
On the day that 55-year-old Jose Maria Olazabal made his first cut here since 2014, five over-60s set off and five of them came up short. Some think that one or two of them are taking up an unnecessary place in the field, others (the majority hopefully) see it for what it is; a collection of superstars who deserve their two, sometimes four, rounds in the sun.
Related: The Masters Leaderboard
If the Masters committee wanted to extend the field then it wouldn’t be too hard, this week we have 88 players in the field with the top 50 and ties making it though. Other majors have room for 156. Normally there would be the fun and frolics of the Par 3 Contest and the chance to enjoy having a mate on the bag, for the past two renewals we’ve had a November Masters that was relatively brutal for the seniors and a fiery and fast opening couple of days now.
And yet they still come and they play a very real part in proceedings. Last November we had shots of Jon Rahm and Olazabal spending some time together on the range, other players are quick to take advantage of the brains of those who have got over the line on a Sunday here.
Ian Woosnam had back surgery 15 months ago and hadn’t marked a card for a year and a half but, with nine holes to play, he had a very real chance of making the cut. Larry Mize missed just one fairway on Thursday but, with a driving average of 260 yards, he was propping up the field both for distance and total score.
Bernhard Langer played the final round of the 2020 Masters with Bryson DeChambeau and, by the end of the 18 holes, he had given up over 750 yards off the tee. The German would shoot 71 to DeChambeau’s 73. This week he was partnered with Will Zalatoris who is sitting on -6 after the first two days.
“You look at him, he’s fairly skinny, but man, does he hit the golf ball. I hit 5-iron on 6, he hit 9-iron and hit it the same distance. He’s three or four irons longer than me on the par 3s and then his 3-wood and driver go a long distance, so that’s a huge advantage for the modern game. All these young guys hit it a long ways now, some hit it 300, some hit it 350, but they’re all out there.”
As for Zalatoris, making his Masters debut at the age of 24, the respect was mutual.
“He said he thinks this was his 38th Masters. I’ve gotten in five rounds. I’m hitting it 40 to 50 by him but to see him still shoot 74 with how firm and fast the greens were, it was a lot of fun to watch that.”
Fred Couples is now 61, he averages around 280 yards off the tee which leaves him 50 shy of the real bombers. He tends to have his practice rounds here with Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas, this year he enjoyed a few holes with some of the younger brigade.
“I’m old so I’ve played the course a million times. I’m actually trying to forget last year, this is more where I have a chance to play. I can hit the ball high, even though I’m hitting a lot longer clubs. I just played with Homa and X-Man (Schauffele) and Cantlay, and they’re all bombing it, and I’m hitting 6-irons and they’re hitting 9-irons. So it’s not a competition for me. The competition is for myself to play the course the best I can, and when that becomes havoc, then I will have probably played my last Masters.”
Sandy Lyle, like Woosnam, is 63 and, all being well, he’ll be back for a 38th straight Masters. After 11 holes the Scot was eight over having bladed a recovery from sand at the 4th on a hole where length wasn’t a factor. Yet Lyle, with his professional pride and being one of the most natural talents ever to pick up a club, played the next 25 holes in just four over.
In a few years none of these quintet will be playing in the Masters, they’ll know when the time’s right to just enjoy the early part of the week rather than the slog of the end of it. For now though we should all enjoy the sight of them grinding away in the hope of another weekend at the Masters.