Steven Fox, 22, of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, won the 2012 U.S. Amateur Championship after surviving a 17-player playoff to reach match play and then coming from two holes down with two to play in a 37-hole final. He is sharing his thoughts on his first Masters Tournament with Thomas Bonk of Masters.com in this exclusive personal diary.
My thoughts about playing in the Masters are creeping up more and more every day because it’s getting so close. As each day goes by, I get a little more nervous and think about it a little more, but I try not to. Before the U.S. Amateur, I used to be like the most easy-going player, could just go out and have fun. I still have fun now, but now I’ve put kind of a lot of pressure on me, having that title. I’m trying to get by, but it’s kind of hard to put it in the back of your mind. I’m trying to get through it.
I’ll play the Georgia Cup with Alan Dunbar, the British Amateur champion, on Thursday before the Masters at the Golf Club of Georgia in Atlanta, just 18 holes. Billy Casper is an honorary guest.
I am so absolutely proud to be in the Masters. When you play golf, that’s the one thing you look forward to. You ask any golfer: What do you want to do, what’s your goal? And it’s to play in the Masters. You watch it on TV and just wish you were out there. Just going out there and being a spectator is an honor. Getting to play is going to be surreal, but it’s going to be an awesome experience. I can’t wait to be out there. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Brandt Snedeker has told me it’s just the best week of your life. Soak it all in. He was there as an amateur when he played and he said it’s the greatest.
I’ve played several practice rounds at Augusta, most recently the first part of March. I stayed four days. I wound up playing with T.J. Vogel, the U.S. Amateur Public Links champion. We didn’t know we were going to be there at the same time, but ended up playing two days together. So it was fun. I got to have my dad down there the first two days. My caddie is a former assistant coach at Chattanooga, Ben Rickett, who is now the head coach at Dalton (Ga.) State.
My earliest memory of the Masters is easy. I can remember Phil Mickelson winning it. It was his first time, when he was jumping on 18 green in 2004. That’s probably my farthest memory of the Tournament.
When I practiced at Augusta National, there were some things that really got my attention. Like No. 1, you don’t see how wide it is before the bunker . . . No. 5, those bunkers and that tee shot, it’s so big, you don’t see that on TV. Number 16, that pin when they put it on the left, that’s tucked pretty good. TV doesn’t do it justice at all – it’s truly a spectacular place to be.
I’ll be in the Crow’s Nest, at least a few nights. I’m absolutely looking forward to that. There’s so much history behind it, I’ve gone up there before and just kind of sat around for a little while, to get away from everything. I kind of picked out my spot, so hopefully I’ll get there first. I’ll see if I can get the right spot. So whenever T.J. Vogel gets there, I’ll be there an hour before.
I’ve been talking to Brad Rose, my swing coach, a lot about preparation. I’m going to have a lot of long irons and a lot of them are on up-slopes, because I may not hit the ball far enough to get to the flat. But I’ve been working on my longer irons and get used to that. Putting has always been the strong point of my game, and I’m just trying to keep that tuned. And then I got a new wedge that has almost no degrees of bounce on it.
My family – my parents, my 24-year-old sister, Ashley, who works for ad agency in Austin, Texas, and my 15-year-old sister, Kristen, a high school sophomore in Hendersonville, Tenn., are going to be there, and some friends. We rented a house for the week. My teammates, they usually go to the Masters and now I’m there, so I have that fan base, too.
Being paired with Bubba Watson is going to be a little intimidating. That first tee shot, I’ve heard from Brandt and Scott (Stallings) that, well, I don’t know if it’s really ‘nerves,’ but it’s just something like you can’t explain. Like a feeling you’ve never felt before, on that first tee. So I’m kind of excited and anxious to see what it’s like out there and hopefully just hit it down the fairway . . . whether it’s solid or not, just it hit it somewhat straight and go from there.
I could finish last, finish middle of the field or finish top 10. Obviously, the top 10 would feel better, but it would still be an awesome week. I think it’s a great accomplishment just getting there. My goal is to make the cut. Until I make a cut on the PGA Tour, then it will change. No matter what happens, it’s going to be a fun week.