AUGUSTA, Ga. — Having made the cut on the number, Eddie Pepperell found himself in the unique position of having the first Saturday tee time at the Masters but without a playing partner. The Englishman knew Masters tradition dictated he'd play with an Augusta National member with an odd number of golfers qualifying for the weekend, but he wasn't certain it would be longtime Masters marker Jeff Knox. Pepperell also knew if it was Knox, he'd have his hands full.
"I wasn't sure I was playing with him until I saw him on the range hitting balls actually," Pepperell said. "I saw him swinging it, and I thought, 'I'm in trouble.'"
The biggest names in golf descend on Augusta National one week out of the year, but for those other 51, this Georgia Bulldog is the big man at the club. Actually, Knox has more than held his own during the Masters as well. Since assuming this role in 2003, Knox's previous 11 appearances have included conquests of Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. So did Pepperell top the local legend?
"I did, so you make sure you report that," the witty Brit said following his even-par 72. "I don't want any myths going around. I did beat him, which makes me better than Rory McIlroy apparently."
Pepperell was impressed with Knox's game, though, and said he shot 74. It's not the 61 he once shot from the members tees, but not bad for a 56-year-old playing a wet course measuring 7,475 yards. A rumor had circulated on Golf Twitter the night before that Knox's run as the marker was done, but Pepperell was happy he got to walk 18 holes with a man he'd heard so much about.
"He had a really nice swing," Pepperell added. "The course is probably a little too long for him at this point, but man, he's a good player. His short game is brilliant, and he was nice. It was very good to play him."
But it was very good to beat him.
"I tried to give him a five-footer on 15, a downhill right-to-lefter, but he refused and missed. Then he said, 'I should have taken that.' I wanted to be pretty generous in case he beat me. Then I'd have an excuse. I wish I could have picked a few up."
There were no putts given on No. 18. Knox left the flag in for his 40-foot birdie attempt—yep, Augusta National members putt with the pin in too!—and rammed it home to produce the third round's loudest roar before the leaders teed off. Pepperell smiled and gave Knox a fist bump when he went to pluck his golf ball out of the hole.
Moments later, the two shook hands and shared some extended pleasantries. There was plenty of time with the next group nowhere in sight.
"It's nice to have company, actually—especially someone like Jeff because there's no pressure on him so you can talk as much or as little as you like," Pepperell said. "And I like to talk on the course, so he was perfect."