Monday, April 6, 2009
If history is anything to go by, then British Amateur champion Reinier Saxton has a tall order at Augusta this week.
The Dutchman is on course to miss the cut, following in the footsteps of every British Amateur champion of the last 30 years except one.
Sergio Garcia is the only British Amateur champion to make the cut at Augusta in three decades. The Spaniard, British Amateur champion of 1998, finished T38 in 1999 to buck a long-standing trend.
England’s Peter McEvoy was the last player before Garcia to make the cut in the Masters. McEvoy finished dead last in 1978 with a 14-over-par total of 302, 25 shots behind winner Gary Player.
British Amateur winners are a collective 399-over-par for the past 30 tournaments. They have averaged 78.44 around the Cathedral in the Pines. There have been 23 scores of 80 or worse in the 62 rounds played since 1979.
The average for missing the cut is 9.45 strokes, while the average over par total score is 13.3.
More tellingly, no British Amateur champion in the last 30 years has broken par around Augusta National. Indeed, only four men have matched the par of 72. Garcia returned that score in the opening round in 1999. Others to match par are Gary Wolstenholme (round 1, 1992), Warren Bladon (round 2, 1997), and Mikko Ilonen (round 1, 2001).
Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey came closest to matching Garcia’s feat of playing all four rounds. The 2000 British Amateur champion missed the cut by a stroke in 2001 after posting rounds of 75, 73.
Sweden’s Christian Hardin holds the record for worst performance by a British Amateur champion. He returned back-to-back 85s in 1989 to miss the cut by 19 strokes. Frenchman Philippe Ploujoux missed the cut by that same margin in 1982 with rounds of 81 82.
If Saxton is hoping recent British Amateur winners have improved over those of the 1980 and 1990s, then he will be sorely disappointed. Since Hoey missed by a whisker in 2002, British Amateur winners have missed by 14, 5, 16, 7, 12 and 9 strokes respectively.
Moreover, if the Dutchman is hoping that intense study of Augusta National is the key to making the cut, he will also be sadly disappointed.
Virginia Tech player Drew Weaver threw his heart and soul into last year’s Masters and still failed to make the final two rounds. Weaver, who won the 2007 British Amateur champion at Royal Lytham & St Annes, played 13 practice rounds over Augusta National before he teed it up in last year’s tournament. He returned rounds of 76, 80 to miss the cut by 9 shots.
Saxton won last year’s British Amateur by beating England’s Tommy Fleetwood 3 & 2 in the 36-hole final at Turnberry, Scotland. He became the second Dutchman to win the British Amateur following Rolf Muntz in 1990.
While Muntz played his part in inspiring Saxton to British Amateur victory last season, he hasn’t set a great Masters precedent for his compatriot to follow. Muntz had rounds of 80, 75 in the 1991 Masters to miss the cut by nine shots.
Saxton’s chances of playing all four rounds this week don’t look good considering his last, and only, major championship appearance. He returned scores of 80, 77 in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale last year to miss the cut by eight shots.
Needless to say, not many will be expecting the 21-year-old to make it to Masters Sunday. It would be something of a bonus if he did, not to mention a huge step towards instilling a modicum of prestige of in the British Amateur Championship.