Does the streak of amateurs making the Masters cut end this year?
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Are you a glass half-full or half-empty person? The answer will likely shape the way you see things shaking out for the amateurs this week at the Masters.
For the last four years at least one golfer playing for pride at Augusta National has made the cut, the longest such streak in nearly three decades. Prior to that, however, the tournament had gone four straight years without an amateur playing on the weekend, the longest such stretch ever.
Does Augusta stay kind or turn cruel to the folks who call the Crow's Nest home? The half-dozen candidates this year are all Masters rookies that come from disparate backgrounds. Only two are American, the fewest in the field since 1993. Conversely, the four international amateurs equal the most in tournament history, a total previously hit in 1967.
Here's a look at the contenders in order of who is the most likely to play four competition rounds at Augusta National this week. I'm typically a half-full kind of guy, but my gut says the current made-cut streak ends at four.
__Matthew Fitzpatrick, 19, Sheffield, England
How he qualified:__ U.S. Amateur champion __
Odds of making the cut:__ 3 to 1
Skinny: Matty Fitz was the can't-miss kid at The Country Club last August, channeling his inner Francis Ouimet with his hot putter en route to becoming the first Englishman to win the Havemayer Trophy since 1911. While the youngest player in the field at Augusta National, he is also the only amateur to have made the cut in a major championship previously, finishing T-44 (low am) at last summer's British Open. Fitzpatrick has been gearing up for this week since the start of 2014, when the Northwestern freshman unexpectedly cut short his college career after just half a season to concentrate on his play in the 2014 majors. If he doesn't make the cut here, critics of the decision are likely to increase. He's got the short game to play well at Augusta, the question is whether the course is a little longer than he'd prefer.
__Oliver Goss, 19, Perth, Australia
How he qualified:__U.S. Amateur runner-up
__Odds of making the cut:__5 to 1
Skinny: The sophomore at Tennessee has to have been inspired by the success of his fellow Aussies on the PGA Tour of late, not to mention Adam Scott's breakthrough win here a year ago. (Goss played a practice round with Scott on Tuesday.) Of course, whether that truly translates into anything on the course week remains to be seen. Goss has said this week that his swing "is there," and he has the talent to play well here. He also has admitted, however, to never having played in front of crowds like these and being "incredibly nervous" on the first tee just in the practice rounds. Like with most amateurs, whether the "moment" will be too much for him to overcome emotionally is the big unknown for Goss.
__Jordan Niebrugge, 20, Mequon, Wis.
How he qualified:__ U.S. Amateur Public Links champion
Odds of making the cut: 8 to 1
__Skinny:__It's been an amazing nine months for the Oklahoma State redshirt sophomore, whose unexpected victory at the penultimate playing of the PubLinks last July sparked a summer run that included victory at the Western Amateur and place on the victorious U.S. Walker Cup team. He's continued it in college, with a win and four top-10 finishes in nine starts. Does he have some more magic in him?
__Garrick Porteous, 24, Morpeth, England
How he qualified:__ British Amateur champion
Odds of making the cut: 10 to 1
Skinny: This will be the Englishman's last amateur event as he'll play next week in Kuala Lumpur at the European Tour's Mayback Malaysian Open on a sponsor's exemption (giving up the chance to play in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in the process). The former University of Tennessee golfer warmed up last week by defeating Fitzpatrick at the annual Georgia Cup match between U.S. and British Amateur champs. While certainly excited to soak in the atmosphere this week in Georgia, his mind might not be totally focused on the task at hand.
__Chang-woo Lee, 20, Seoul, South Korea
How he qualified:__ Asia-Pacific Amateur champion
Odds of making the cut: 15 to 1.
Skinny: The tendency is to think that APA winners are the least likely to do well at Augusta, given the travel burdens and lack of experience playing in the U.S. compared to other amateur invites. But their track record since first being invited when the tournament was created in 2010 has been impressive: three out of four years the APA winner has made the cut. Lee, a college student back in South Korea, also has some solid accomplishments on his resume, having won a pro event in Korea last year and winning his country's amateur title by 14 strokes. It's still tough, though, to look past the lack-of-experience factor.
__Mike McCoy, 51, West Des Moines, Iowa
How he qualified:__ U.S. Mid-Amateur champion
Odds of making the cut: 20 to 1
Skinny: There's no better feel-good story among the amateurs than McCoy, who after playing in 38th USGA competition finally broke through with a victory at the Mid-Amateur last fall. The reinstated amateur/insurance executive is an 11-time Iowa amateur player of the year who is widely respected in the amateur community. He has attended two Masters but had never played the course until last November and will have his 23-year-old son, Nate, a recently turned pro golfer, on his bag this week. For all the good vibes, however, McCoy must contend with the Masters' Mid-Amateur curse. Since the club first invited the Mid-Am champ to compete in 1989, none have been able to make the cut.