AUGUSTA, Georgia — Two days after Augusta National furnished “Arnie’s Army” buttons to all who walked through the gates, a select and spirited group proudly walked around Augusta National Golf Club wearing similar buttons that said, “Stew’s Crew.” Not only that, but friends of Deepdale Golf Club member Stewart Hagestad also wore pink golf shirts similar to the one he wore during the third round.
“I was going to wear this shirt regardless,” Hagestad said on Saturday after shooting a solid 2-over-par 74 to finish the round 5 over for the Masters. “I guess they all went out and coordinated.”
He sure had enough collaborators. The U.S. Mid-Amateur champion said there are 30 to 35 family members and friends staying in two rental houses here. It is a mix of people who know him from his youth and college days in California, his recent work experience in Manhattan and his time at the club in Manhasset.
Hagestad has a four-shot lead over Curtis Luck in the race for low amateur and leads the entire Masters field in proximity to the hole on his approach shots — 34 feet, 4 inches. He still has dreams of finishing among the top 12 overall to qualify for next year’s Masters. “Let’s go out there and hit a bunch of fairways and a bunch of greens and see if we can make something special,” he said, adding that he has a busy playing schedule and, as much as he would like to, he will not play in the Travis Invitational at Garden City Golf Club.
McIlroy fails to make a move
Rory McIlroy put himself into the mix with birdies on the second and third holes but played 1 over for the rest of the round and finished at par, six shots back and tied for 11th place. “I’m going to need my best score around here, 65. I’m going to need something like that, if not lower, to have a chance tomorrow,” he said.
An azalea disaster
This is a Masters unlike any other, to the dismay of the club. Augusta National is just not as colorful as it almost always is because the azaleas didn’t make the cut. Masters chairman Billy Payne said on Wednesday that a mostly mild winter caused the flowers to bloom three weeks early and “recent consecutive hard freezes” knocked out whatever had been blossoming . . . Among the signs that the Masters is distinct: It is one of the few places on Earth at which people are not constantly looking at their smart phones. The devices are not allowed on the grounds, even though they are permitted at other tournaments. “You’ll have to ask the next chairman,” Payne said in his annual address earlier in the week. “That’s not going to change while I’m chairman.”