AUGUSTA, Ga. – Steven Fox got a peek at Phil Mickelson’s little black book for Augusta and called it phenomenal. For an amateur who has seen the place a dozen times, having a three-time champion share his short-game secrets is sacred stuff.
“He would show me putts that nobody knows about really but Phil,” said Fox, the 2012 U.S. Amateur champion. Mickelson didn’t just tell Fox to “be smart,” he showed him how to be smart, explaining where to miss in his Augusta debut. Fox played a practice round with Mickelson, Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner on Saturday. It was a fantastic warmup for his Thursday date with reigning Masters champ Bubba Watson and Ian Poulter.
Fox, 22, earned his way into the field with a U.S. Amateur victory that stretched 37 holes against Cal’s Michael Weaver. It hasn’t exactly been a dream run since then, however, as Fox tried to tweak his swing in response to “what people said.”
“I just wanted to get better at ball‑striking and instead, you know, it brought me down and made me worse of a player,” he said.
His Chattanooga coach Mark Guhne took him aside and had him hit 10 range balls. Eight of the 10 were good, but Fox focused on the two poor shots.
“That’s never been me,” said the pleasant Fox. “I’ve always focused on the good ones.”
The pep talk helped Fox finish runner-up last week at the BancorpSouth Intercollegiate in Mississippi. He’s currently ranked 101st in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.
Fox said his experience in two PGA Tour events will help calm the nerves this week. With Tiger Woods in the group behind him and Watson playing alongside, he’ll get plenty of gallery experience the first two rounds. Fox said on Monday he yelled “Fore!” around 15 times during his round.
“Luckily I didn’t hit anybody,” he said. “But the place gets a lot more narrow.”
Fox joined U.S. Amateur Public Links champ T.J. Vogel on Monday for a practice round and the two hit simultaneously on the par-3 16th, skipping shots across the pond.
Sure beats last year’s view: from the couch.