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.
I really had a learning experience at Bay Hill, where I missed the cut a couple of weeks ago. Obviously I tried to take positives from the week. I was excited . . . I had fun, I was smiling, but it’s disappointing throwing an 81 up there. But it’s just a good experience. I take Torrey Pines and Bay Hill as freebies. I don’t have to play for a living yet. If I don’t have a check that week, I’m still under my parents’ income, so I’m OK.
I’ll be ready when the time comes at the Masters. I’m just trying to get used to playing PGA Tour events. It’s different playing college golf than on Tour, so I’m trying to balance that a little bit. But I know what I need to work on. My game plan changed a little bit. At Bay Hill, I played with Brad Fritsch the first two days. You hit 80 percent of the fairways and you know the game looks easy from where he played it. I learned hitting fairways is crucial. Some courses in college, you can hit it wherever you want. On this level, it’s more of getting it in play and then finding the middle of the green . . . and you can play from there all the time.
I love Augusta National. I’ve played it a few times in practice rounds and I’m going to have a few practice rounds set up with Tour pros. I’ve got one with Phil Mickelson on Sunday, so I’m going to learn a lot from him and pick his brain for 18 holes. It’s going to be fun. I don’t know Phil well. I got to meet him at Torrey Pines and I got to meet his agent, Steve Loy. Hopefully we can start building a friendship then.
As far as my mental approach to the Masters, I guess I am simplifying it a little bit, not trying to think too much, but having those two PGA Tour events under my belt, it’s awesome. I’m happy that the Masters isn’t going to be my first start. If I’m going to make a cut, hopefully it’s going to be at the Masters.
I feel like I play on an even keel, wherever I am, whether I make a birdie or bogey, I’m pretty level-headed. If you make bogey and you get down, you’re just going to have the bogey train going. You’ve just got to move on. You make a birdie, you just kind of feed off it. You’re excited to go to the next tee, stick to your game plan. My caddie, Ben Rickett, he’s told me after I make a bogey or something and I’m frustrated, he says, ‘You have up until your next shot to let out whatever you want, but when you get over that next shot, you’d better be done.’ It’s not really that easy to do. Sometimes it’s a lot easier than others. You’ve just got to get past it.
One other thing, but not about golf. I’ve become really good at packing. I pack enough to go on an ocean cruise or something. Without a doubt. When I went to Bay Hill, I think I had four bags. I should have enough to cover a week at the Masters, that’s what I’m looking forward to.