The Loop

The Loop

Assessing the amateurs' chances at Augusta

April 06, 2011

AUGUSTA, GA. -- Matteo Manassero ended the drought a year ago, becoming the first amateur to make the cut at the Masters since 2005 (and promptly turned pro). Can any of the six golfers who make up this year's play-for-pride set repeat the feat? Here's a look at the contenders and their odds of joining the eventual tournament champion at Sunday's awards ceremony.

Hideki Matsuyama, 19, Ehime, Japan

How he qualified: Asian Amateur champion

Odds of making the cut: 40-1

Skinny: Matsuyama plays with a heavy heart, as he attends school in Sendai, Japan, one of the areas impacted the most by the recent earthquake and tsunami. The disaster made him question whether to compete in the tournament. "I have decided to play because so many people have pushed me," he said. "Everyone has been so supportive." Suffice it to say, his preparation hasn't been what he had hoped for this week, but he might be the sentimental favorite among the amateurs.

Lion Kim, 22, Lake Mary, Fla.

How he qualified: U.S. Amateur Public Links champion

Odds of making the cut: 35-1

Skinny: As with each of the amateurs, the challenge for the Michigan senior comes in how he handles the emotions of finally playing in the event; for months he had been anticipating the week, but now that it is finally here, how will he respond? Kim seems to be going about it the right way, using a local caddie this week to provide local knowledge when the competition begins. He's also got a nice pairing in playing with Jose Maria Olazabal and Davis Love III, the 2012 Ryder Cup captains who are both laid-back enough so as not to add to the intimidation factor.

David Chung, 21, Fayetteville, N.C.

How he qualified: U.S. Amateur runner-up

Odds of making the cut: 25-1

Skinny: There was no hotter amateur golfer for a stretch last summer than the Stanford junior, who won the Porter Cup and Western Amateur before nearly pulling off a third straight win at the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay. Unfortunately for him, that stretch came almost nine months ago and his game hasn't looked quite as sharp. In three college starts this spring, he has finished no better than T-28. It's not nerves that Chung has to worry about this week -- he always seems to be steady in that department -- but just whether he can avoid big numbers.

Nathan Smith, 32, Pittsburgh

How he qualified: U.S. Mid-Amateur champion

Odds of making the cut: 20-1

Skinny: Will the third time be the charm? The 2009 U.S. Walker Cupper competed at Augusta National in 2004 and 2010 after winning the first two of his three U.S. Mid-Amateur crowns, but missed the cut each time with his best score being a 72. To reverse the trend, Smith will need to improve his putting, having averaged 31.75 putts in his four competitive rounds at Augusta National. And then there's dealing with the Mid-Am jinx; no winner of the USGA event has made the cut at the Masters since the winner began earning an invitation in 1989.

Jin Jeong, 21, Melbourne

How he qualified: British Amateur champion

Odds of making the cut: 15-1

Skinny: The South Korean native who lives in Australia already has major championship experience, having made the cut and been the low amateur at last year's British Open at St. Andrews. He even found his name on the leader board during the event. How a recent parting with his swing coach, Trevor Flakemore, will play out though, remains to be seen.

Peter Uihlein, 21, Orlando

How he qualified: U.S. Amateur champion

Odds of making the cut: 15-1

Skinny: The standout collegiate player at Oklahoma State has the physical and mental tools to make his first appearance in the Masters a four-day affair. Two weeks ago he made the cut at the PGA Tour's Transitions Championship (finishing T-57), and his game seems to be in good form. While not lacking for distance off the tee, Uihlein's solid short game should be the key factor in seeing him make it to the weekend. Moreover, he seems less at risk than other past U.S. Amateur winners to succumb to the intimidation factor of playing in his first major championship.

-- Ryan Herrington