A developer goes to the Masters: Every stroke matters

It was Sunday at the Masters, and Xander Schauffele had momentum, trimming Hideki Matsuyama’s lead from seven strokes to just two on the back nine. But, in this game, there is no margin for error. And by misjudging the wind, his 8-iron on 16 landed a yard short, found the drink, and led to a triple bogey, dashing his hopes of donning the coveted green jacket.

As I watched Schauffele’s ball trickle into the pond, I thought about how one bad stroke can snowball into disaster. And how in technology, one bad keystroke can have a similar domino effect.

For instance, during the second round on Friday, Matt Wolff was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. Disqualification is rare, but not unprecedented. Still, that one scoring scenario touches most of our digital integration points. It affects the leaderboard, of course. But, it also affects the Round in under three minutes, the player cards, and the Masters Fantasy game.

Changes like this require coordination and testing across all features and platforms for the digital experience. When it happened, the team gathered and updated the leaderboard, and tested that the proper data appeared on every relevant section of the digital platforms. The team was able to quickly and efficiently verify that all elements were correctly representing the new scoring scenario. In other words, we were able to scramble and save par.

The Masters also got me thinking about the importance of quickly adapting to changing circumstances. For example, on Saturday, when a rain delay disrupted play for nearly an hour, Matsuyama was the only player who successfully adjusted his game to the softer, more receptive greens. As a result, he built a four-stroke lead heading into the final round.

Matsuyama’s agile adjustments reminded me of six months ago, when the Masters was held in November without patrons, and there were no crowd roars to help Watson identify highlight-worthy shots. Our team used AutoAI to reverse-engineer crowd noise based on the competitive context so that AI Highlights could be identified and delivered to fans.

Golf is a brutal and unforgiving game. It requires perfection and adaptation. Because like technology, every stroke matters. However, no matter what happens between now and next April, we’ll be ready.