News & ToursApril 8, 2015

Will any amateur be occupying the Crow's Nest over the weekend?

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Not since the 1980s has there been a run of success by amateurs at the Masters that has mirrored what's taken place of late at Augusta National. The current five-year streak of at least one amateur making the cut is the longest such stretch since the 14-year span from 1975 to 1988.

Sabermetricians would probably tell you we're due for a little regression to the mean, but there are seven men hoping the law of averages waits another year before kicking in. All are Masters rookies, and five are from outside the United States, an all-time Masters record breaking the previous mark of four that appeared in 1967 and 2014.

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. Does Augusta stay kind or turn cruel to the folks who call the Crow's Nest home? Sadly for the seven here, I think we see that regression come calling and the five-year run end on Friday.

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Corey Conners, 23, Listowel, Canada (above with Mike Weir)

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

Odds of making the cut:____ 3-1

Skinny:__ Conners graduated from Kent State last June and was preparing to turn pro before finding his way to the final of the Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club last August. The lure of playing in the Masters was too great, so the Canadian put his plans on hold (he'll turn pro after this week and sign with agent Chubby Chandler). To stay sharp he spent time earlier this year playing golf in Australia in a handful of amateur events, reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Amateur. Conners was known as a bomber in college, which certainly won't hurt around Augusta National. He's also a bit of a thinking on the course (his degree is in actuarial math). Combine the two, and you've got the guy with the best chance of joining the eventual champion on Sunday to receive the low amateur silver cup.


__Scott Harvey, 36, Kernersville, N.C.

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

Odds of making the cut: 5-1__ __

Skinny: The property manager and son of the late noted North Carolina amateur Bill Harvey has been in Augusta since March 31, soaking up the atmosphere as long as he can. Perhaps it's because of the Mid-Amateur champions' history at the Masters. Since the club started inviting the winner into the field in 1989, no Mid-Am champion has ever played all 72 holes in the event. With that much time on his hands, Harvey has done about everything you could hope at the club, including meeting Tiger Woods for the first time last Friday. Harvey recently won the South American Amateur and the Gasparilla Invitational, and his friendly demeanor has ingraciated himself with Augusta National members, who'll be rooting him on to break the Mid-Am jinx.

__Gunn Yang, 21, San Diego

How he qualified:__ U.S. Amateur champion

Odds of making the cut: 6-1__ __

Skinny: Yang came from nowhere (he was No. 776 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking) when he won the Havemeyer Trophy, doing it 15 months after having spinal surgery to correct a herniated disc. Given the perks of winning the Amateur, the South Korean native took a leave of absense from San Diego State to play professional events in Asia and the U.S. as an amateur. His record was been mixed: he missed the cut in both the Farmers Insurance Open (on his home course at Torrey Pines) and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, with a fourth-place showing at the New South Wales Open. The fairy-tale run will continue at this summer's U.S. Open and British Open, but having it last through the weekend at Augusta is probably asking a little too much.

__Byron Meth, 22, San Diego

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

Odds of making the cut: 6-1__ __

Skinny: With the USGA having retired the PubLinks last year, the University of Pacific senior already made history as the last winner of the previously 92-year-old event. ("My dad and I were joking about being the perpetual champion," Meth said.) Can he become the last to make the cut at the Masters? It's been 10 years since a PubLinks champ has done it (Ryan Moore in 2005). Meth's college record this year has been solid -- 70.87 average, one win and four top-fives in 10 starts -- and he is optimistic about his chances at Augusta. He has wisely paced himself in the practice rounds, playing just nine holes Monday and Tuesday after arriving in Georgia last week. Among his playing partners: Rory McIlroy, who asked for advice about playing Augusta National (Treat it like any other course, Rory told him). Unfortunately, this isn't any other tournament and keep the nerves from going into overdrive could be a challenge.

__Bradley Neil, 19, Blairgowrie, Scotland

How he qualified:__ British Amateur champion

Odds of making the cut: 8-1__ __

Skinny: Neil became the youngest Scot ever to win the British Amateur title last June, part of an impressive season that included three runner-ups and three third-place finishes in major U.K. events. The disappointment of missing the cut at the British Open last July in Liverpool has motivated him during the winter to make amends at Augusta. Having Rory McIlroy reach out to see if he wanted to play a practice round was also a nice confidence boost. Intagibles will be needed if Neil hopes to play 72 holes.

__Antonio Murdaca, 19, Adelaide, Australia

How he qualified:__ Asia-Pacific Amateur champions

Odds of making the cut: 10-1__ __

Skinny: Born in Australia to Italian parents, Murdaca became the first Aussie to win the APA title. He's still getting over the effects of a 10-hour delay in Sydney that led to a 48-hour door-to-door trip last week. Augusta National officials have no so coincidentally paired him with countryman Adam Scott for the first two rounds, with Dustin Johnon rounding out the threesome. It's pretty heady stuff, admits Murdaca, who has reached out to last year's low amateur and another Australian, Oliver Goss, for advice on how to handle the week as well as the most famous Australian golfer of all, Greg Norman. There words of wisdom were helpful, as was a visit to Augusta earlier this year where the two-time Australian Junior winner got to see how fast the greens actually are. Asked how he tried to replicate them when he returned home, Murdaca said he practiced "on the kitchen tiles" back at his home.

__Matias Dominguez, 22, Santiago, Chile

How he qualified:__ Latin America Amateur champion

Odds of making the cut: 12-1__ __

Skinny: It's amazing how quickly your life can change in three months. Dominguez, a senior at Texas Tech, was just trying to wrap up a solid but not spectacular college career when he entered the inaugural Latin America Amateur Championship in January. Low and behold, he wins the event in Argentina and suddenly he has to clear his early April calendar. Having never played in a pro event previously, Dominguez used a sponsor's invitation into the Web.com Tour's Chile Classic last month to try to get his barrings. Already, he says, he can see the impact his win is having on promoting golf back home. His low ball flight from having spent the last four years playing college golf in Texas isn't ideal for Augusta National, leaving many to write off his chances of making the cut. That said, many didn't think the early winners of Asia-Pacific Amateur had a shot at Augusta, and three of the first four played the weekend.

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