Mark O'Meara calls it a Masters career
Twenty years after his dramatic victory at Augusta National Golf Club, Mark O’Meara called it a Masters Tournament career after Friday’s second round.
“That was it for me - I’m done,” O’Meara said minutes after his round.
O’Meara rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the 1998 Masters by a shot over Fred Couples and David Duval, capping a back nine where he birdied three of the final four holes.
He shot 78-81-159 this week to miss the cut for the third consecutive year.
Three years ago, he tied for 22nd with 68s in the second and fourth rounds. But he shot 77-80 in 2016, 78-78 in 2017 and said “enough is enough” after his round Friday.
“It’s just a tough golf course when you’re 61,” he said. “I hit it OK. Today I struggled a little bit. Didn’t hit a lot of greens in regulation today. Could have driven the ball better. Didn’t putt well. Didn’t make a birdie. I knew coming into the week this was likely going to be my last Masters.”
O’Meara said he was “OK” with his decision to call it a day. He will continue to play on the Champions Tour, where he has won twice. He won 16 times on the PGA Tour.
“Look, I count my blessings that 20 years ago I got fortunate to make a putt on the 18th hole (to win the Masters),” O’Meara said. “I’ve been very blessed to be a very, very small part of the unbelievable tradition here at the Masters Tournament. To be a guy who made a putt on the 18th green and have Tiger (Woods) put the green jacket on me in 1998. ... I couldn’t have asked for any more than that. Now we’re 20 years later.
“I have so much respect for the committee, for the members here that I just don’t want to come out if I don’t feel like I have a chance to play on the weekend. It’s time for me to move aside.”
O’Meara was asked to recall his Masters debut in 1980 when he qualified as the 1979 U.S. Amateur champion.
“I shot 80-81 and my father felt worse for me than I felt for myself,” he said. “I remember telling my father driving out Magnolia Lane that Friday afternoon, ‘Look, I’m an amateur. I don’t know if I’ll ever make it as a professional golfer, but I know one thing for a fact.’ He goes ‘what’s that?’ and I said ‘At least I got to play in the Masters one time.’
"So that was in 1980. Eighteen years later I made the putt at 41 to win the Masters. Now I’m still a Masters champion. I just don’t want to out and shoot 76s and 80s and 79s. Today, no birdies and 81. That’s not exactly very sterling.”
O’Meara made it clear this 34th appearance in the Masters was his last.
“I know Ian (Woosnam) said a couple of years ago he wasn’t playing again and he played. I’m telling you I’m done. I’m done.
“I love this championship,” he said. “This is a special place. They can never take away from a guy that’s won a green jacket. I’ll be able to enjoy the tournament a little bit more now going down the road. I’ll come back from now on but I don’t have to play so it will be fine.”
The last three Masters champions to retire from the tournament were Craig Stadler in 2014, Ben Crenshaw in 2015 and Tom Watson in 2016.
Woosnam is not thinking about retiring from the tournament these days. He shot 79-76 to miss the cut by six shots Friday. He’s missed 10 cuts in a row.
“Tee to green I play great,” Woosnan said. “If I just had a short game like some of these guys, I’d make the cut. So it makes me come back again. I’ll be back. As long as I can walk around this course, I’ll be coming again. I think it’s great Augusta for letting us have the opportunity to go around. If it gets embarrassing and I’m shooting in the 80s and I’m in these guys’ way, I’ll stop. But I’m still striking the ball pretty good. I’ve played good for the last five or six years around here. I just can’t make the damn cut.”
Scotland’s Sandy Lyle, the 1988 Masters champion, missed the cut for the fourth consecutive year, and also said he will be back next year.
Lyle went around Augusta National in 74-76-150, missing the cut by a shot. The highlight of his week came when he made eagle on the par-5 15th hole on Thursday. Two bogeys to end that round hurt his chances of making the cut.
Still, his 150 total, which included 1-under-par 35 on the final nine on Friday, was his lowest since 2015.
“It gives me an encouragement for next year to try to come back,” Lyle said. “If I’d shot 78-82 this week I might have said ‘this is getting stupid.’ But I’ve left a lot there. I’ve putted quite well (24 putts on Thursday and 27 on Friday).”