Amateurs Get A Taste Of Augusta National
Palmer Kicks Off Masters
April 5, 2007
Masters Blog: It's
By Alex Davidson
Augusta, Ga. - Experience always proves to be a valuable asset in the Masters Tournament.
A difficult day at Augusta National Golf Club turned out to be particularly penal
for those still trying to figure out what the Masters Tournament is all about and
how best to unlock the mysteries of its famous layout.
Fighting firm playing areas and a challenging northwest wind, the 96 players in
the field for the 71st Masters Tournament encountered a contentious golf
course that was yielding few good scores - even among veterans.
A 15-over-par 87 for U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Casey Watabu left him in
96th place after Thursday's first round. (USGA Photo Archives)
So imagine how the five-man amateur contingent felt after Thursday's proceedings,
when the field averaged 76.915 strokes. There was a mixture of disappointment and
relief, but no hanging heads. The sun was out, the air temperate. There was just
little red on the players' faces than on their scorecards.
As Dave Womack, the U.S. Mid-Amateur champion said, "Where else can you shoot 84
and still enjoy it?"
Richie Ramsay, the U.S. Amateur winner from Aberdeen, Scotland, was the low man
among the amateurs with a 4-over-par 76, which tied him for 43rd place
entering the second round. Among those he tied was defending champion Phil Mickelson,
with whom he was paired.
If not for a bogey on the home hole - and a good one at that thanks to a save from
20 feet - John Kelly (U.S. Amateur runner-up) would have equaled that total, but
he had to settle for a 77.
Meanwhile, British Amateur champion Julien Guerrier of France couldn't adjust to
the faster greens and ended up with an 83. Womack, fighting his driver and his nerves,
shot bookend 42s for an 84. And Casey Watabu, the U.S. Amateur Public Links champion,
suffered through an awful day, making a 10 on the par-5 13th hole on
the way to a 15-over-par 87.
Nevertheless, some guys, including Ramsay, couldn't help but enjoy their opening
rounds in the Masters.
"It was great fun," said Ramsay, who probably wasn't speaking for many players in
the field. "I really enjoyed it. I'm up for the challenge. I like the challenge."
"I had a good time," said Kelly, who turned in even par - best among the ams - before
fading at the finish. "My prayers were to, 'Trust in your abilities and have a blast.'
I have a note in my pocket that says, 'Breathe, have fun and play your game.' I
tried to do that as much as possible, and you know, I had some early trouble, but
I stayed patient and really held it together there for awhile."
Guerrier, 21, said he struggled with a different course than what he had been preparing
for the first three days of the week. "The practice rounds were good for the lines
and recognizing the course, but it was not the same," he said. "I hit some good
shots, but not enough of them."
At least he could say he tied his legendary playing partner, Gary Player, who is
competing in his 50th Masters Tournament. "It was like match play out
there," said Guerrier with a grin. "I caught up to him at the end."
Alex Davidson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on www.usga.org