AUGUSTA, Ga. – A prevailing theory holds that golf was invented in Scotland in the Middle Ages, when the internet went down and shepherds needed something to do. Since the first niblick propelled the first ball-like object into the woods, there has never been a finish like the one that sent Akshay Bhatia to the Masters Tournament.

On Sunday afternoon at the Valero Texas Open, Bhatia stood over his third shot into the par-5 18th in the first hole of a sudden-death playoff, knowing he was one good swing away from Googling "Direct flights from San Antonio to Augusta."

He had forced the playoff with Denny McCarthy with a birdie putt on the 18th, prompting a fist pump that momentarily dislocated his left shoulder. After hitting his drive on the playoff hole, he alerted officials that he wanted his athletic trainer to adjust and tape his shoulder.

Bhatia left the fairway to receive treatment, then popped a wedge onto the green, made another birdie and became the last qualifier for the 2024 Masters. He arrived at Augusta National on Monday, was added to the interview room list and was speaking as Augusta experienced a solar eclipse.

Not that the weather gods were being heavy-handed with their metaphors, but a solar eclipse occurs when an orbiting object obscures a massive star — which is what Bhatia would like to do this week.

"The shoulder is going to be a work in progress," Bhatia said with a smile but without a shrug. "I've had it happen two or three times. I had a full dislocation playing pickleball. I had a subluxation in Bermuda in 2021. I played through that week and finished 15th or 16th. It's a weird, weird experience because I had so much adrenaline that I had no pain in that playoff on Sunday.

"I have full confidence that I'll tee it up on Thursday."

He's been here before, in two ways. The Valero title was his second PGA Tour victory, and he's competed at Augusta National before. Bhatia, 22, is the first former finalist of the annual Drive, Chip & Putt competition held at ANGC to qualify for the Masters.

Bhatia remembers staying in an Augusta hotel, practicing putting competitions in his room and seeing John Daly with a Diet Coke in the elevator.

"It was a bunch of fun," he said. "We were out here watching practice rounds on Tuesday, and we were sitting on the fourth hole in a grandstand. It was so surreal. I remember how bad I wanted to be out here and not just to watch."

When an interviewer mentioned a moment at that competition, Bhatia said, "I remember making that putt wearing those baggy pants. Thankfully, my style has gotten a little bit better since then."

Bhatia seems like an anomaly. He grew up in California and decided to turn pro out of high school. He played in his first PGA Tour event on a sponsor exemption in 2019, then played mini tours until winning the Barracuda Championship in 2023. The Valero win gave him his second PGA Tour title.

He's lefthanded, settled in Wake Forest, N.C., even though he didn't attend Wake Forest and one of the few players using a long-handled putter, and he's so lean that all of his jeans are skinny. He plays with daring and touch, and he isn't afraid to show emotion on the course, even at the risk of his bad shoulder.

He even admits to reacting to the biggest victory of his career as if he were still a baggy-pants kid.

"Soaking in what just happened is important," he said. "You don't get those opportunities too much. I waited seven or eight months to win again. So I'm singing in the car on the way to the airport and bouncing up and down the whole way.

"This is another golf tournament. It's a very special golf tournament. At the end of the day, one of us is going to win. I'm excited to tee it up."