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 spent my time today on the practice tee because I’ve been playing a lot lately. I just wanted to hit balls, worked about four hours. I thought I hit them with confidence and putted and chipped for a while, so it was a good day of practice.
But what I did Saturday was special. I played a practice round with Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner. It was awesome. Phil is a tremendous guy. I’ve always liked him from the get-go, but actually getting to play with him was awesome. Keegan and Jason are also great guys—they’re good friends with Phil. Phil kind of took Keegan under his wing since the Ryder Cup. So it was an awesome day. Phil showed me around the course ... every green he was telling me something new that not many people know, so it was awesome.
One of the things he told me was that the key to Augusta is playing smart. There are birdie flags where you can fire all day at, and there’s some where you’re just making par. So he told me if you have a good number and you like it, fire away, but when you’re not comfortable with something, the middle of the green or even sometimes missing the green is not a bad thing. He said, “Just play smart, you’ll understand it.”
In my practice round with Phil, I got off to a great start, hitting driver right down the middle and a 5-iron to about 12 feet and making birdie. Awesome. A great way to start the day with those boys. On 15, I hit just a perfect bunker shot to that back right flag, hit it just right and it trickles right in for eagle. Phil gave me a little fist bump. It was amazing. He told me, “Great shot.” Getting that from Phil is really cool.
I can’t wait for the start of the tournament, just can’t wait for it. As I’m getting closer and closer to the first shot on Thursday, I’m feeling that my practice round Saturday helped a lot. Obviously I’m going to be playing with Bubba Watson on Thursday. I have a practice round set up with Henrik Stenson on Tuesday, and on Monday I’ll go out with T.J. Vogel and hopefully find another player on the range to go out with us.
It’s great that my family is here, and my girlfriend, Lauren Bowers, is coming in for a few days. She’s a student at the University of Tennessee, so that will be great. I was the first one in the Crow’s Nest, so I claimed my bed, bright and early on Friday, moved all my luggage in there, but I won’t be there to stay for a few days yet.
I’m an even-keel sort of guy, and I don’t really think that’s going to change here playing the Masters. Ben Rickett, my caddie, he kept me level-headed at the U.S. Amateur, whether we were up or down in the match. He’s going to play a big role here. We’re just going to go out there and have fun.
I’ll play in the Par 3 Contest on Wednesday, and I’ll be ready for Thursday. You can’t practice every day from morning until dark or you’re going to be tired by the time Thursday rolls around. I won’t be tired, I’ll just be way excited.