2004: The Masters - Wittenberg wows ’em
As Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els were trading blows on the back nine Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club, a 19-year-old amateur was quietly making a statement of his own. Pure and simple, under pressure that only the Masters can create, Casey Wittenberg proved he has what it takes to compete with the best in the world.
A sizzling back-nine 31 vaulted Wittenberg into a tie for 13th place, earning him a return trip to the Masters next year. Wittenberg shot 76-72-71-69 for an even-par 288 total, the best finish by an amateur since Charlie Coe shot 288 in 1962. Brandt Snedeker, the U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, was the only other amateur of the five invited to make the cut. He tied for 41st, shooting 73-75-75-77 for a 300 total.
“It’s indescribable how I feel right now,” said Wittenberg, who earned the silver cup and medal that goes to the Masters’ low amateur. “To have my dad (Jimmy) on the bag and be able to do all of this in this form and fashion was unbelievable. This week has been storybook.”
Wittenberg began the first round 3 over through four holes while playing with Tiger Woods. But the Oklahoma State freshman and U.S. Amateur runner-up kept his composure and played the next 68 holes in 3 under, eventually beating Woods by two shots.
On Sunday, Wittenberg’s chances of making a run were dim when he made the turn at 38 and was 5 over. But he gained momentum when he made birdie on 13 and saved par from the woods on 14. Then Wittenberg hit a 6-iron approach to a foot on the par-5 15th for a kick-in eagle, made a 25-footer on 16 for birdie and rolled in a 35-footer on 17 for birdie before walking up the 18th fairway to a lengthy standing ovation.
“That’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Wittenberg said.
Snedeker’s finest moment came in the opening round – playing with Fred Couples and David Toms – when he birdied all three holes through Amen Corner (Nos. 11-13), the first amateur to do so since Jodie Mudd accomplished the same feat in 1982. Another highlight for Snedeker came when Couples nearly aced the 16th hole Friday when he hit his tee shot to an inch. Snedeker followed with a shot to 5 feet, but missed the birdie putt.
“I had a great time,” said Snedeker, 23, who turned pro the following day. “I didn’t play particularly well this week and still was able to make the cut in a major. I know I have some improving to do but I’m excited about it and it’s going to be fun trying to get there.”
U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith (78-72), U.S. Amateur champion Nick Flanagan (78-74) and British Open champion Gary Wolstenholme (77-76) all missed the cut.