AUGUSTA, Ga. — Kevin Stadler was a toddler, just 2, when his father Craig won the Masters. In the ensuing years, Kevin remembers coming to Augusta National Golf Club and racing around the place, “just somewhere that we ended up going every year because he was playing every single year.”
This week, though, it will be different. Craig Stadler, 60, will play in his 38th — and perhaps final — Masters. For the first time, Kevin, who won the first PGA Tour event of his career in February in Phoenix, will join him in the field. In Thursday’s first round, they’ll become the first father-son combination to play in the same Masters.
“It’s emotional in a very, very good way,” Craig Stadler said. “I had envisioned this and knew it would happen someday. I was hoping it would happen someday. I was pretty sure. The rest was up to him.”
Kevin Stadler, 34, had only six top-10 finishes over his first five years on tour. Since 2010, though, he’s had 16, including the breakthrough win that got him into the Masters. He reiterated Monday that he has not understood how he was supposed to answer questions about being his father’s son — “It’s my dad; that’s all I know,” he said.
There have been 11 father-son combinations in the Masters, but never one in the same year. Jay Haas and his son Bill have both played in the Masters, but Jay’s last appearance was 2005 while Bill’s debut came in 2010.
Steve Stricker is 47, and by now a part-time player on the PGA Tour. He deals with two herniated disks — one in his back, another in his neck.
But because he plays infrequently, he has been able to manage the problem without surgery. Stricker wonders whether Tiger Woods — who will miss the Masters for the first time after undergoing back surgery — might benefit from a more lenient schedule and regimen.
“Guys that keep themselves in really good shape, it almost seems like they are more prone to injury — whether they don’t give their bodies a break,” Stricker said. “You don’t see too many overweight guys or guys that don’t take as good of care get hurt, for whatever reason.” . . .
Jason Day has played in three Masters — tying for second in 2011, withdrawing with an ankle injury in 2012, and finishing third last year, when he held the lead on the 16th tee and finished two shots out of the playoff between Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera.
Day, 26, would be on any short list of favorites, particularly after winning the Accenture Match Play Championship in February. But a thumb injury has prevented him from playing since. He received a cortisone shot last week, and he will wear tape on it during the tournament, but said it currently causes him no pain.
“It’s so frustrating, because everything else is fine,” Day said. “But you need your hands to grip the golf club, and every time it hurt when I swung the golf club. I would kind of flinch at impact and you just can’t compete against the best players in the world doing that.” . . .
For the first time in 11 years, the grounds at Augusta National had to be closed Monday to fans because of a series of persistent showers and thunderstorms. After the gates were closed at 10 a.m. — which also prevented the completion of practice rounds — all fans were entitled to a full refund as well as the right to buy tickets to a practice round next year.