There are 28 days and counting until the first round of the Masters. For the amateurs competing in the year’s first men’s major, that means it’s time to start getting their games in gear so that they’re ready for the challenging conditions they’ll face at Augusta National the first full week in April.
Viktor Hovland, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, has been trying to do just that by playing in a handful of PGA Tour events. After teeing it up at the Mayakoba Golf Classic last November, the 20-year-old Oklahoma State sophomore by way of Norway played in the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, where he missed the cut, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, where he made the cut and finished tied for 40th.
Then there’s Devon Bling, the man Hovland defeated in the final last August at Pebble Beach. The 19-year-old sophomore at UCLA hasn’t been out on the pro circuit, instead playing exclusively for the Bruins since the spring college season began in late January. Bling has made four starts, with his best finish coming with a T-10 showing in the Southwestern Invitational at outside of L.A.
Appreciating that the course conditions at those college events might not be mirror what he’ll face in Augusta, Bling it appears has been supplementing his play by practicing on some slick surfaces he found back on the Westwood campus.
Whether Bling knows this or not, he’s following in the footsteps of another Pac-12 college golfer who was preparing for Augusta. Back before the 1995 Masters, reigning U.S. Amateur champion Tiger Woods practiced his putting on the floor of Maples Pavilion, the home hoops court for the Stanford Cardinal.
We’re not entirely sure the stimp on the UCLA
course court, but Bling looks like he’s got a handle on the speed. We’re trusting the putting surfaces he’ll find at Augusta will only be a hair slower than the Russell Westbrook Court … but unfortunately they will have a tad more break.