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Akshay Bhatia says shoulder is ‘work in progress’ after arriving in Augusta for Masters debut

3 Min Read



    Written by Sean Martin @PGATOURSMartin

    AUGUSTA, Ga. – Akshay Bhatia remembers his first trip to Augusta National a decade ago when he was here to compete in the Drive, Chip & Putt competition held annually on the eve of Masters week. He attended a Masters practice round the next day, sitting in a grandstand and dreaming of the day that he could compete in the tournament.

    Bhatia made that dream come true Sunday with his thrilling playoff victory over Denny McCarthy in the Valero Texas Open. It was the second PGA TOUR win for the 22-year-old and earned Bhatia the final invitation into this year’s Masters.

    It was a rapid turnaround – and dramatic change of plans – after Sunday’s win. Instead of heading home Sunday evening, he was Augusta-bound to make his Masters debut. Fortunately, a friend flew Bhatia and his team from San Antonio to Augusta, Georgia, on Sunday night and Bhatia’s agent arranged for this week’s housing.

    While Bhatia’s Masters dream has been a decade in the making, he admittedly took his time getting to the course Monday. After seven consecutive weeks of competing, and the adrenaline rush that followed Sunday’s win, he knew rest was imperative.

    “I think soaking in what just happened is important,” Bhatia said Monday. “You don't get to have those opportunities too much. I waited seven, eight months to kind of get those feelings of singing in the car on the way to the airport and just kind of bouncing up and down on the plane ride. Today I'm still going to soak it in. (Tuesday) is kind of, 'Okay, what's our goals for the week,' and just get ready to tee it up.”

    Akshay Bhatia overcomes injury on playoff hole to win Valero Texas Open

    One question is how Bhatia’s injured shoulder will impact this week. He dislocated it while celebrating the 12-foot birdie putt he made on the 18th green at TPC San Antonio to force the playoff with McCarthy. Bhatia had to receive treatment on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff.

    He said the shoulder will be a “work in progress” this week. It’s an injury he’s had before. He hurt it once while playing pickleball, and it happened again when he was competing at the 2022 Butterfield Bermuda Championship. He still finished T17 that week.

    “It's nothing new to me,” Bhatia said. “It's a weird, weird experience because I had so much adrenaline so I had no pain in that playoff. But it's definitely something we're going to have to work towards, and I have a lot of trust in my team that we can tee it up on Thursday.”

    His flight arrived in Augusta at around 1:30 a.m. on Monday and, after a leisurely morning, he arrived at the course shortly before his 4 p.m. press conference. He was going to work with a physio after his media obligations. The only certainty on his schedule was Wednesday’s Par-3 Contest.

    “Just going to kind of sit down with the team and figure out what the best game plan is,” he said. “I'm hoping my shoulder should be good, but I might be a little scared to hit some shots, and we just have to find out tomorrow.”

    Sean Martin is a senior editor for the PGA TOUR. He is a 2004 graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. Attending a small school gave him a heart for the underdog, which is why he enjoys telling stories of golf's lesser-known players. Follow Sean Martin on Twitter.

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