Even though things didn’t work out Sunday for Smylie Kaufman in the final round of the Masters, it wasn’t for a lack of support.
From his family, friends and former teammates who watched his every move at Augusta National, to LSU golf coach Chuck Winstead, who looked on from the comfort of his Baton Rouge home, lots of people were in “Smylie’s Army” when he began the final round just one shot off the lead.
Thanks to social media, even those outside Kaufman’s immediate circle had a chance to weigh in on his opportunity to become only the third player to win as a Masters rookie.
It was pretty heady stuff to say the least for a guy who was an unknown to even the most ardent golf fan when he was toiling on the Web.com Tour just one year ago.
Shortly after Kaufman fired a 3-under 69 on Saturday and finished the third round one shot behind leader and defending champion Jordan Spieth, LSU running back Leonard Fournette and former Tigers were among those urging him on.
Fournette tweeted: @SmylieKaufman10 get that jacket #SavageSZN.
That was followed by a message from former LSU star Tyrann Mathieu, who tweeted: @smyliekaufman10 GEAUX TIGER I don’t usually watch golf but when I do I am looking for my LSU guys !!! #FOREVERLSU.
Even former LSU All-American Patrick Peterson, who was among the throng Saturday at Augusta National, tweeted about two hours before the final group teed off Sunday that he was torn between rooting for Kaufman and his Under Armour buddy — Spieth.
“BUT like I always say #GEAUXTigers !!” Peterson said in finishing his tweet.
Yet things didn’t work out for the 24-year-old Kaufman, who shot a final-round 81 and went from solo second place to a tie for 29th.
At least he had some company when Spieth frittered away a five-shot lead going to the back nine and tied for second, three strokes behind eventual champion Danny Willett.
But all in all, Winstead said it wasn’t a bad week for the former LSU star who completed his college eligibility just two seasons ago.
“At the beginning of the week, if you had said a 24-year-old rookie at the Masters would have the opportunity to play in the last group and learn and finish in the top-30,” Winstead said before pausing for a second. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
Missing a makeable birdie putt on the first green may have been an omen for Kaufman, who followed with a birdie at the par-5 second before carding bogeys at the third, fourth, seventh and ninth holes to quickly fall out of contention.
Three of those bogeys on the front nine were the result of three-putts, which is uncharacteristic of the PGA Tour rookie. Going into the tournament, Kaufman ranked 27th in putting average on the Tour at 1.736 per hole.
“I was watching on the edge of my seat all day, and the reality of it is that Smylie is not a good putter … he’s a great putter,” Winstead said. “Over the first nine holes, by my count, Smylie had 19 putts, and Jordan had 13.
“At the end of the day, sometimes things work out like that,” he said. “But day in and day out, I would take Smylie over anybody on the green.”
Winstead said missed opportunities on the final three holes of the front nine did Kaufman in as Spieth increased his lead with four consecutive birdies to close the first nine.
Kaufman sandwiched two three-putts at the seventh and ninth around a par at the par-5 eighth hole.
So when the wheels started coming off for Spieth with bogeys at Nos. 10 and 11 and a crushing quadruple-bogey 7 at the par-3 12th, it was too late for Kaufman to do anything about it, Winstead said.
“There were some good birdie opportunities at seven, eight, nine,” he said. “If he had saved a few shots there, he could have been walking to the No. 10 tee with a good chance.”
Winstead said he had some good conversations with Kaufman on Saturday night and heard no change in his demeanor from earlier in the week after driving away from the course with a green jacket within his grasp.
“We talked back and forth, but he was good … he was great,” Winstead said just after Kaufman finished his round Sunday. “I think if you talked to him about 30 minutes from now, he’ll be great again.
“When you’re a performer or an athlete, you put yourself out there for everybody to see. He gave it his all today, it just didn’t go his way. But I’m proud of him, and I’m very confident in saying that he learned a lot today. And I couldn’t be more excited for his future.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.