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Amateurs follow different paths to Augusta

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By Ed Rudd

GolfWRX Contributor 

The view from the Crow’s Nest atop Augusta National’s clubhouse is reserved for a few lucky amateurs.  The tradition at the Masters allows amateur invitees to stay in the Crow’s Nest during their time at the tournament, a perk that not even members are allowed.  A small staircase from the locker room leads to the quarters at the peak of the clubhouse, but the road to getting there is much longer, and much more winding, for this year’s five amateur competitors.

The Masters has invited five amateur champions to compete in 2012.  They are Kelly Kraft, the current U.S .Amateur champion; Randal Lewis, reigning Mid-Amateur champ; Bryden Macpherson, current British Amateur champion; Hideki Matsuyama, the Asian Amateur champion; and Corbin Mills, U.S. Amateur Public Links champion.  Winning their respective titles is just the first step, with looming decisions on turning pro, attending college, and continuing battles on the links these fine golfers face on their way to Magnolia Lane.

Kelly Kraft, stellar member of SMU’s golf team, had to dispatch Patrick Cantlay, Golfweek/Sagarin ranking’s current No. 1 amateur, to win his U.S. Amateur title. Kraft has decided to turn pro after this year’s Masters, opting to forfeit exemptions to this year’s U.S. & British Open championships and attempt to qualify as a professional.  Those are tough choices leading down a challenging path.

Australian British Amateur champion Bryden Macpherson decided to withdraw from the University of Georgia in order to get ready for competing at this year’s Masters, a move that strongly indicates he will turn pro sometime after the tournament. He and Kraft will have the honor of meeting in a head to head competition prior to the Masters in this year’s Georgia Cup, a traditional meeting of reigning U.S. vs. British amateur champions that began in 1998.

Randal Lewis has the honor of being the oldest U.S. Mid Amateur winner at 54 years of age. Lewis, a Central Michigan grad and stalwart of the Michigan amateur scene, was briefly a pro from ’80 to ’82 before regaining his amateur status.  Randal’s road to the Masters was paved by continually knocking on the door at USGA events through the 90’s and early 00’s before finally breaking through in 2011.

Hideki Matsuyama might get the same Crow’s Nest bunk he had at last year’s Masters, as he is a repeat Asian Amateur Champion.  Matsuyama has tried his hand at professional level competition in Japan, winning the Taiheiyo Masters which included an international field of professionals.  Hideki is the third ever amateur winner on the Japan pro tour.

Clemson’s Corbin Mills will be dealing with some personal challenges besides Augusta’s famed undulating greens.  Corbin’s grandfather, Boyd, who treated him to a trip to watch the Masters a few years ago, passed away earlier this month.  Mills will have help and support from caddy Jordan Byrd, who sometimes carries the bag for PGA Tour pro and brother, Jonathan Byrd.

This year’s crop of amateur champions has proven they’re worthy to walk the hallowed fairways of Augusta National.  There are no doubt going to be some very interesting conversations up in the Crow’s Nest at the Masters next week, as these steely competitors compare notes on amateur status, turning pro, and most of all, measuring themselves against the field in the first major of 2012.  The most compelling question is where their respective roads will lead beyond Augusta. Stay tuned.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

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Tour News

REPORT: Tiger Woods to play in the Genesis Open on Feb 15

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Last season, Tiger Woods withdrew from a press conference at the Genesis Open due to back spasms. This season, Woods will reportedly play in the 2018 Genesis Open at Riviera C.C. in Pacific Palisades, California from February 15-18.

By withdrawing from the 2017 Genesis Open — an event which his Tiger Woods Foundation hosts — Woods ensured that a promising comeback was not to be. At the start of 2017, Woods committed to play in the Farmers Insurance Open, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Genesis Open and the Honda Classic… an aggressive schedule for Woods, who hadn’t played much competitive golf in the previous year due to back injuries and surgeries. Things didn’t go as planned, however, as Woods missed the cut at the Farmers, withdrew after an opening-round 77 in Dubai, and withdrew from the Genesis Open and the Honda.

Since then, Woods has had spinal fusion surgery, and he recently finished T9 at the 18-player 2017 Hero World Challenge. It was there he showed the golfing world — and probably himself, too — that he can still compete among the world’s best golfers when he’s healthy.

At the Hero World Challenge, Woods was consistently hitting 179 mph of ball speed off the tee with his driver, and despite some early concerns with the wedge, he showed prowess around and on the greens. He was yip-less, fast, healthy, and finished 8-under through four rounds. A Tiger Woods comeback seems more plausible now than it has in three years.

Woods will continue to test his game at the 2017 Genesis Open — a start that will come 26 years after competing as a 16-year-old amateur in the 1992 Nissan Open at Riviera. Much like 26 years ago, Woods comes to Riviera as a golfer who needs to prove himself… it’s just that this time around, he has 14 majors and 79 PGA Tour wins to his name.

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Thursday’s Photos from the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Florida.

The 20-team field includes some of the game’s legendary major champions, and their sons. Notable teams include John Daly/Little John Daly, Nick Faldo/Matthew Faldo, Tom Kite/David Kite, Bernhard Langer/Jason Langer, Greg Norman/Greg Norman Jr., Jack Nicklaus/Gary Nicklaus Jr., and Lee Trevino/Daniel Trevino.  The teams will compete in a scramble format over 36 holes to decide the winners of the Willie Park Trophy.

Last year, David Duval and his step-son Nick Karavites took home the trophy, and they are back in the field this year to defend.

Check out our photos below from this year’s event!

Thursday’s Photos

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos

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Friday’s Photos from the 2017 QBE Shootout

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2017 QBE Shootout at Tiburon G.C. in Naples, Florida. Formerly known as the Franklin Templeton Shootout, or the Shark Shootout, the unofficial event plays host to 24 of some of the world’s best golfers, competing in a two-person team competition. The format calls for 54 holes; first-round scramble, second-round modified alternate shot, and third-round fourball (or better ball).

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Here is a list of the teams:

  • Daniel Berger-Gary Woodland
  • Keegan Bradley-Brendan Steele
  • Kevin Chappell-Kevin Kisner
  • Jason Dufner-Billy Horschel
  • Harris English-Matt Kuchar
  • Tony Finau-Lexi Thompson
  • Brian Harman-Pat Perez
  • Russell Henley-Kyle Stanley
  • Charley-Hoffman-Zach Johnson
  • Shane Lowry-Graeme McDowell
  • Brandt Snedeker-Bubba Watson
  • Sean O’Hair-Steve Stricker

Last year, Harris English and Matt Kuchar took down the crown, finishing at 28-under par for the event. Of course, they’ll be playing together again this year as the defending champs.

Check out our photos from the 2017 QBE Shootout below!

Friday’s Galleries

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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