AUGUSTA -- Just past noon on Friday on the 10th hole, two patrons quietly chatted as a group played through.
"That's Danny Lee," one said to the other, when Lee's name reached the leaderboard with a red number next to it.
"You know," he continued, "he could win the Masters."
Midway through his second round Lee approached Amen Corner at 4 under, the only man within two shots of Augusta National magician Jordan Spieth. And at the time, not many other names had come through accompanied by red digits. The 25-year-old was a welcome sight, if only for a few moments, until his approach at the 12th fell short into Rae’s Creek.
Lee dropped, flopped and made the 17-foot bogey putt. Two-hundred yards up the 13th fairway, his dad exhaled and fist-bumped a family member, content with the score. But, according to the groaning patrons, hope was slipping. It didn’t help that Spieth was approaching the first tee now owning a bigger lead than he had eating breakfast.
Lee’s next approach found Rae’s Creek again, and birdie was out of the question. Spieth began gliding down the first fairway, where he would add to his lead yet again.
For Lee, there once was prospect of catching Spieth before he even began playing. That dream continued to drown when Spieth made birdie on the par-4 third and Lee three-putted for bogey on 17. A few of Lee’s family members turned to the 18th tee, dejected. Soon, after another three-putt, five shots back would turn to six.
Despite shooting 74 and slipping out from Spieth’s three-shot bubble, the sullen look from Lee’s family sold the 2016 Masters short of what it will likely be defined by: the wind.
Lee’s last hope was that extended family member, Mother Nature, and she didn’t let him down. Wind gusted near 30 mph, Spieth came back to the field, only a handful of players carded rounds under par and for the first time in his life, Lee, who is two off the lead and in the second-to-last pairing on Saturday, will be playing on the weekend at the Masters. In just a matter of minutes, hope was restored.
“I’m just happy,” Lee said. “My score is still red and I might still have a chance to make up for it the next couple days.”
Some hope still remains for Danny Lee. The same goes for the field.