Wagner keeps Cinderella story alive with 74

Wagner keeps Cinderella story alive with 74

Wagner shot 74 on Friday.
Al Tielemans/SI

AUGUSTA, Ga. — You’re a Masters rookie, and you’re five over par on your first six holes on Friday. What do you do? The answer is supposed to be, book a flight home. Not for Johnson Wagner, the tournament’s designated Cinderella story.

Wagner, 28, a former All-American at Virginia Tech who played his way into the Masters last Sunday by winning the Shell Houston Open, may have pulled off the comeback of the week. He played the last 11 holes in three under par Friday to post 72-74, two over par, good enough to make the weekend.

It was not looking good after his first swing of the day. Wagner blocked his tee shot way, way right. “It was so far right, I didn’t even know what was over there,” Wagner said. He discovered the press building hidden behind the trees. “One guy over there said, ‘I’ve never seen anybody hit one this far over here,’ ” Wagner said.

The errant shot led to a triple-bogey 7 on the opening hole. Wagner bogeyed the third and sixth holes, too, and was suddenly five over par for the tournament. “I was really just trying to make some pars, plod along and see if I could get a couple of birdies on the back nine,” Wagner said. “I took care of business on the par 5s. It was great. After my starts on both days, I couldn’t be happier. I’m tickled to death to be here on the weekend.”

Wagner was two over through four holes in his opening round, but he got it back to even par by the end of the day. On Friday, he enjoyed a good break at the 11th hole, where he hit his tee shot way left. The ball hit a tree and popped back into the fairway. Yes, he’s the happiest Masters rookie on the grounds. He’s staying in his RV (which someone drove from Houston to Augusta for him) with his wife, Katie. Some family and friends drove down from Richmond early Thursday morning to watch.

“A lot of them were tired, but I’m so fired up, I’m not going to be tired all week,” Wagner said. “It’s been an unbelievable week. The fans are incredible, the course is to die for. I don’t know what else to say.”

He’s got two more rounds and a weekend at the Masters to find the words.