Just as well the Masters has a rich amateur heritage thanks to Bobby Jones. Otherwise, British Amateur champions might not be playing the Masters each year, because they haven’t fared well at Augusta National.
A place in the Masters field is one of the rewards for winning the game’s oldest national championship. The chance to play Jones’ legacy to the game is arguably the ultimate bonus for being the last man standing after a grueling week of match-play golf. But beating a bunch of fellow amateurs isn’t nearly as grueling as taking on Augusta National’s lightning-quick putting surfaces.
Harry Ellis’ chances of making the cut in this week’s Masters don’t look good. The 2017 British Amateur champion will have to buck a worrying trend if he’s to tee it up Saturday morning. Just three British Amateur winners have made the Masters cut in the last 30 years: Sergio Garcia in the 1999 Masters after winning the 1998 Amateur, Matteo Manassero in 2010 and Romain Langasque in 2016. The Italian Manassero performed best, finishing 36th.
Three-for-30 pales in comparison to U.S. Amateur champions. Eleven winners of America’s national championship in the last 30 years have made the Masters cut. One of them won the tournament: Tiger Woods won the 1996 U.S. Amateur and the 1997 Masters by 12 shots, albeit the future World No. 1 had turned professional soon after his Amateur triumph. Ryan Moore’s 13th-place finish in 2005 is the best showing by a U.S. Amateur champion who hadn’t turned professional.
British Amateur champions of the last 30 years are collectively 360 over par. That compares to 244 over for U.S Amateur winners if Woods is taken out of the equation.
Chances of a British Amateur champion playing all four rounds are usually nil after the first round. The average first-round score for British Amateur champions is 81.5, which drops to 77.5 in the second round. U.S. Amateur champions average 79 and 74 respectively, again taking Woods out of the mix.
“It is a bit of cultural shock for winners of our Amateur compared to U.S. Amateur winners,” said two-time British Amateur champion Gary Wolstenholme , who played in the 1992 and 2004 Masters. “There’s nothing at home like Augusta National, so getting to know the course in a few practice rounds is difficult. The fact it comes so early in the season doesn’t help, either.”
American Drew Weaver won the 2007 British Amateur to earn a place in the 2008 Masters. He was more prepared for Augusta than any British Amateur champion in the past 30 years. The native of High Point, N.C., played Augusta 13 times beforehand yet returned scores of 76 and 80 when it mattered. No wonder he was in tears after his second round.
“I was incredibly comfortable,” Weaver told Golfweek. “I almost felt as if the golf course was my home course.”
Expect Florida State’s Ellis to feel a lot less comfortable this week, even if he won’t admit it. History doesn’t give him much chance teeing it up on the weekend. Gwk