AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Bernhard Langer looked every bit of his 58 years while he worked his way around Augusta National, searching for answers that never came.
Smylie Kaufman looked all of 24 during an equally dreadful day.
No ID necessary. Sunday at the Masters was a train wreck for young and old alike.
Two players from different generations started their final rounds with dreams of wearing the green jacket by sundown. They were afterthoughts by the middle of the front nine, and were playing for pride by the time the day’s biggest meltdown — Jordan Spieth’s undoing at Amen Corner — was unfolding.
“That was some real heat,” Kaufman said of playing in the final group of his first Masters. “I’ve never felt that before.”
Langer has. Didn’t matter.
Langer, trying for his third green jacket and hoping to become the oldest major winner by a full decade, opened two shots off the lead and played in the second-to-last group. He opened bogey-par-double bogey and was never heard from again. He carded a 79 in his 114th career round at Augusta and finished at 6-over 294, tied for 24th and 11 shots behind winner Danny Willett.
Kaufman opened one behind Spieth and was paired with the defending champion. After Saturday’s windblown round of 69, Kaufman said — only half-jokingly — that he was 0 for 1000 lifetime against Spieth. Make it 0 for 1,001. Kaufman shot 81. He lost to Spieth by eight to finish at 7 over, tied for 29th.
Langer and Kaufman were both in trouble before they reached the second tee.
Kaufman hit his approach on No. 1 to 4 feet and looked like a sure thing to pull into a tie for the lead before things even got warmed up. The birdie putt rimmed out.
“It would’ve been huge for me,” Kaufman said. “You make that putt, you never know what might happen.”
Langer hit his first tee shot just into the left rough. Unable to spin the ball, his second shot bounced about pin-high, but rolled off the back. He putted from the fringe but blew that 15 feet past. Bogey. On No. 3, he left his approach short, overcooked the chip and needed three more shots to get down. Double.
“I never really hit a bad shot and I’m 3-over par,” Langer said. “At that point it becomes very difficult.”
Their stories almost felt too good to be true.
Langer, a regular winner on the Champions Tour, needed only 27 putts during a turn-back-the-clock kind of Saturday, during which he handled the wind as well as anyone and beat the world’s top-ranked player, Jason Day, by one shot despite playing 50-60 yards behind him in the fairway all day.
The German, whose last victory at the Masters came when Kaufman was 16 months old, isn’t done at Augusta.
“I still think I have a couple more in me,” Langer said. “I played good here two years ago (a tie for eighth) and played well again this year. But it’s that kind of golf course. A foot short or a foot long can mean a lot.”
Kaufman also left feeling optimistic despite the terrible day. He qualified for the Masters by shooting a 61 to win the tournament last October in Las Vegas. To that point, it was the first time he’d played in a final group.
Now, he’s been there twice.
“I learned some things today, found some things I can improve on,” Kaufman said. “But things happen. It was just a tough day.”