A New Era
Masters 2023: Augusta National legend Jeff Knox is no longer the Masters marker, and his replacement is a bomber
During the second round of the 2023 Masters Tournament held in Augusta, GA at Augusta National Golf Club on Friday, April 7, 2023. Photo by J.D. Cuban.
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Very few people have ever made their Masters debut at 48. Even fewer have done it on a Friday. So not surprisingly, there also weren't many patrons who recognized a new face inside the ropes on Friday.
"I don't know who that is," one fan said. "Who is he?"
"He" is Michael McDermott, and he's an Augusta National member who is filling one of the most enviable positions in sports as the official Masters marker. He also happens to be trying to fill the shoes of Jeff Knox, a man who has become a Masters legend the past two decades. You know, the guy who gets to play on the weekend when an odd number of players make the cut, and has beaten the likes of World No. 1 Rory McIlroy (in 2014) and Sergio Garcia.
Knox was on the first tee as McDermott made his way over from the practice green, but this year he was wearing his green jacket. The 60-year-old exchanged a few words and a couple of laughs with his younger replacement in what was a symbolic passing of the torch—or, rather driver.
Then following a fist bump with his kids, McDermott, a tall, thin man wearing a green Masters polo and navy pants with a matching Augusta National hat and belt, got focused. It was time to play with 2003 Masters champ Mike Weir, who played the back nine as a single on Thursday after Kevin Na withdrew with an illness.
"Now driving, our marker, Michael McDermott!" The Philadelphia-area native then stepped up and absolutely smoked a drive down the left side of the fairway, some 40 yards past Weir's golf ball. McDermott casually handed his driver to his caddie and then finally flashed a smile. He had just poked a 310-yard drive up the hill, no big deal.
"He wasn't nervous, just really excited," McDermott's mom, Loretta, said. "He's always been even-keeled like that."
A well-controlled approach to the back of the green left him with about 25 feet for birdie, but a three-putt—McDermott scooped up his ball about 18 inches from the cup after lipping out from four feet—left him shaking his head. Apparently, he doesn't have quite the hands of Knox, the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame inductee who still holds the course record from the members tees with a 61.
As you can imagine, though, McDermott has a nice resume of his own. He's a two-time winner of the Crump Cup, a prestigious amateur event at Pine Valley, and he was medalist at the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur before making it to the quarterfinals. And the CFP has great timing making his first Masters start on one of the only Fridays of the year the stock market is closed. Under his bio on his company's website it mentions, "He remains an active and competitive golfer." Talk about an undersell!
Actually, McDermott could have potentially made his debut last year. With Knox aging—although, again, those hands still gave his star playing partners all they could handle in recent years—McDermott was tapped as the new marker. It marked the end of the Jeff Knox Era, but McDermott wasn't needed when an even number of players wound up making the cut.
He may have had to wait an extra year, but due to the unusual circumstances of Na withdrawing from a twosome, McDermott got to play a day earlier than usual. And after back-to-back pars on Nos. 2 and 3, he was (unofficially) one ahead of Weir. Maybe in Michael, the Masters has another David to golf's Goliaths.
As for Knox, he seemed satisfied with his replacement as he walked back toward the clubhouse. The club has never allowed him to discuss his conquests with the media, but I couldn't resist asking if he missed doing the gig that made him a cult hero on Golf Twitter. The giant slayer looked at me, paused as if wondering what to say or whether to say anything at all, and then placed one of those magical hands on my shoulder.
"No," he said with a grin. "My time has gone."
Maybe so, Jeff, but what a time it was.
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