AUGUSTA NATIONAL — A day of shock and awe at the Masters ended with Brooks Koepka in control, Rory McIlroy heading home and a minor miracle at the 17th tee when spectators escaped unhurt after two uprooted pine trees crashed to the ground in a flash storm.
Sergio Garcia looked on in alarm from the adjacent 16th green as the trees came down moments before the weather forced a second and final interruption in Friday’s play.
The incident was captured by television cameras and drew a terrified reaction from the commentator, who watched the fleeing spectators scatter, narrowly avoiding disaster.
“Good gracious, watch out! Oh my god, I hope everyone is okay. Holy smokes,” he said.
Perhaps because of an earlier suspension there were fewer people assembled in what is typically one of the more densely populated parts of the course. The area was quickly made safe before the horn sounded to clear the course at 4.22pm local time.
In a statement the club said: “Augusta National Golf Club can confirm that no injuries were reported from three trees that were blown over to the left of the No 17 tee due to wind.
The safety and well-being of everyone attending the Masters Tournament will always be the top priority. We will continue to closely monitor weather today and through the Tournament.”
There would be no lucky escape for McIlroy, however. The pre-tournament favourite shot a five over par 75 to fall three strokes outside the projected cut line.
Though half the field have yet to complete their second rounds, McIlroy is too far back to be spared when play resumes on Saturday morning. Clearly disturbed by his performance McIlroy offered no comment, as is customary after signing a scorecard, choosing to exit the scene post-haste.
Tiger Woods must complete the final seven holes of his second round in level par to make the cut after walking off the 11th green on the mark at two over.
The chances of any bar Jon Rahm catching Koepka already appear slim after a second round 67 took him to 12 under par. Rahm, who restarts on the 10th green, is three shots back, one better than amateur Sam Bennett, who recorded a second successive 68.
With the temperatures set to plummet and rain forecast all day Saturday, an attritional weekend beckons, conditions that historically have rewarded the famously bloody Koepka.
Only 20 have won five or more majors in the history of the game, a total Koepka would reach with a first Masters victory on Sunday. “The whole goal is to win the Grand Slam, right,” he said. “I feel like all the greats have won here and they have all won British Opens as well. I guess it’s one more box for me to tick to truly feel like I’ve done what I should have accomplished in this game.”