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‘The best back nine I’ve ever played’: The story of a fairytale Masters debut

As Danny Willett secured a shock Masters victory in 2016, unknown French amateur Romain Langasque was celebrating an unforgettable debut at Augusta. He tells NCG the full story of his remarkable week

The best Hollywood writers would have tough time penning a better script than the one Romain Langasque wrote for himself as an underdog amateur at the 2016 Masters.

The then 20-year-old Frenchman brought down the curtain on his impressive amateur career with a gutsy display on Augusta’s hallowed fairways.

Opening rounds of 74 and 73 saw Langasque make the cut for the weekend, but an 83 on the Saturday demonstrated how challenging Augusta can be for those playing it for the first time.

Undeterred, Langasque bounced back with a four-under 68 on the Sunday in what he describes as “the best back nine of his life” to finish alongside Justin Thomas and Shane Lowry in a tie for 39th.

He would then relax back in the clubhouse and watch the drama unfold as Danny Willett became the shock winner following Jordan Spieth’s implosion on the 12th hole.

Langasque and Bryson DeChambeau were the only amateurs to make the cut at the 2016 Masters and both made the decision to turn professional after the tournament.

The pair actually went head-to-head at that year’s Georgia Cup – a matchplay showdown between the Amateur and US Amateur champions held at the Golf Club of Georgia, a couple of hours from Augusta National, the week before the Masters – with Amateur champion Langasque winning 4&3.

We spoke to Langasque from his father’s home in Le Tignet in south-east France about facing DeChambeau, the magic of Augusta, and what he would serve at his own Champions Dinner

What goes through your head in the build-up to making your Masters debut?

It was amazing for me. When you finish your amateur career at the Masters it is like a dream come true. I just prepared for it as well as I could. I went one week before with my dad and I took a local caddie to have a look around the golf course. I just enjoyed so much my experience over there.

What was it like when you were walking around? Was it as crazy as you imagined?

It is more than crazy. Even more because it’s a golf course where even if you are a big star, you cannot enter if you do not have an invitation. When you show the invitation they open the door for you and say ‘OK, now you can go’.

Of course, Magnolia Lane is amazing. The welcome over there is just crazy. It was just really unbelievable.

Romain Langasque

I remember the first time I went over there with my dad and we didn’t have any idea where we have to go, where we have to park the car, where the clubhouse is but, you know, you just park the car, you are so quiet and you don’t really know what to do. 

Then finally you just see a golf course that is unbelievable. The facilities are just amazing. It was just, again, a dream come true and I just enjoyed it as much as I can all the time I was over.

You said you went the week before with your dad, that must have been quite special?

Yeah, it was unbelievable. I went one week before because I had the home match (Georgia Cup) against the winner of the US Amateur 10 days before the Masters. It was against Bryson DeChambeau. After that, I went straight to Augusta. I won, I think 4&3.

A future Ryder Cup singles maybe?

I would love to have again this match but during the Ryder Cup.

What was he like to play against? Was he as scientific as we see on TV?

He was already like that. He was already swinging this way. In the week after, he was in a really good position to win the Masters. He was already a very good player. Danny Willett won but I think Bryson was really close to the lead until his triple bogey at the 18th. It was a good experience; to talk to him and see him in real life. I had heard a lot of things about him before but I had never met him.

So you played Bryson and then you and your dad went across to Augusta to basically get a feel for it?

It was unbelievable. It was my dad and me. That week before you cannot go with your caddie so I took a local caddie and I played three or four times the golf course the week before.

Without the crowd it must have been a different atmosphere…

Exactly. No crowd. No sound as you are on your own on the golf course. On Monday, they opened the doors and there is a crowd. The 1st tee wasn’t that tough but it became tougher when the public was there. Again, it was a dream come true for me and I was just focused on trying to do my best and enjoying every minute over there.

Romain Langasque

Was that the most nervous you have been on a first tee on the Thursday of a Masters?

Yes, of course. It’s pretty different to all the other big tournaments I have played because the people are really close to you, the speaker doesn’t have a microphone and, of course, I pull my shot left in the trees. It was just because it is normally safe over there.

Was Augusta as you expected it to be?

Nothing I can say can do better. Everything was just 10 out of 10. It was unbelievable really.

You had a pretty special back nine in the final round. How did that all come together?

That week I played quite well. I was so happy to make the cut on Friday so I was like ‘On Saturday I’m going to go offensive and take my chance’. But the course on Saturday was so tough. The greens were so firm and the wind was  blowing a little. I think I shot 10 or 11 over. I was not last but the one before last.

I was playing early on Sunday and I remember I started really well but I didn’t make any birdies. I think I was one over through nine holes, playing really solid.

On the back nine, I think it was the best back nine I have ever played in my life. There were so many birdie opportunities. So many good things happened. That was the best back nine I have ever played.

Romain Langasque

Do you replay it a lot in your mind?

When I think back on this back nine, I’m just thinking ‘woah’. It was like in a book finishing my amateur career with that kind of play on my last nine holes as an amateur.

When I made that last putt on 18 I was like ‘woah’ because I knew I had made something special. It was really impressive to play five-under on the back nine of the last round. Even now, I’m really proud of what I did that day.

What were some of your Masters memories growing up?

I’ve got so many memories. I’ve got one from my Masters – the second round on the 15th when I holed out my wedge from 60 metres. That was the best moment of my career so far. It was unbelievable.

Of course, I remember the chip of Tiger on 16 in 2005. I think everybody remembers that one.

Romain Langasque

There was the triple or quadruple bogey of McIlroy at 10 when he was leading the Masters.

Hole number 12 of Jordan Spieth when he put two balls in the water. There are a lot of different kind of memories but I think everybody has the same because it is just a special week and everybody is in front of the TV if you are not playing in it.

Do you have any memorabilia from the Masters in your house?

Yes, we have a Masters flag. My dad has a Masters Bushnell. Of course, we have some wood covers. My dad has a few polos. We spent so much money in the shop over there. I have some crystal glasses and I have an amateur silver plate.

Who did you play with during your rounds?

The first two rounds I played with Bernhard Langer. He was in the last group after three rounds, so he was playing really solid. I also played with Hunter Mahan. In the last round I played with Cameron Smith, who is now playing really solid.

Romain Langasque

What was it like to play with a legend like Bernhard Langer?

It was unbelievable to play with him. When I saw the pairing a lot of people were saying ‘you are playing with Bernhard Langer, it is going to be unbelievable’.

You will see this guy doesn’t really talk or he is really focused on his group, so I was OK.

And finally, he was really, really cool with me. Even after the second round when I had just made the cut, I was doing an interview with the French TV and he stopped to say to the TV that I was unbelievable around and on the green. It is good when someone like him says something about you like that. It is always a good sign.

Talking of legends, who were your Masters heroes growing up?

Tiger Woods, of course. When you say Masters, straight away it is Tiger Woods.

Romain Langasque

Where would the Masters sit in your order of the majors you want to win?

Masters, British Open, US Open and US PGA.

If you were allowed to make a course change Augusta, what would it be?

Not really, I think the course is now good. I think now on hole No.5 there is a tee further back. I think now it is better because everyone will hit driver.

No, I think the course has to stay like that. I don’t really agree with the way to play the 13th longer. The 13th is not that easy. If you don’t hit the perfect draw then you don’t really have a chance for the green. They don’t really need to change this hole.

Say you have won the Masters, what would you serve at the Champions Dinner the next year?

It’s going to be tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella to start. Then it is going to be escalope milanese with pasta and to finish I think it is going to be strawberries with Greek yoghurt, or something like that. Keeping healthy, it is good, no?

Is there any advice you would give to future Masters debutants?

One advice is always try to stay under the flag and under the hole. On this golf course you can’t miss on the wrong side and you always need to really stay on the good side of the hole.

Langasque was speaking to NCG as a TaylorMade ambassador.

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Source: National Club Golf