The miracle shot that put one amateur in Masters

  • Ray Cox
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
3:29 p.m Tuesday, April 5, 2016 Golf
Harry How
Sammy Schmitz plays a shot during Monday's Masters practice round at Augusta National Golf Club.

While celebrated U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion Bryson DeChambeau gets the spotlight, it’s another of the six amateurs who will be playing for everyman at Augusta National Golf Club this week.

Sammy Schmitz will attempt to become the first U.S. Mid-Amateur champ to make a Masters cut.

Sixty years ago, amateur Ken Venturi nearly pulled off a miraculous Masters victory only to shoot 80 in the final round and lose by a shot.

From Falls River, Wis., Schmitz is the 2,535th-ranked amateur in the world this week and his odds at the Masters are at least 2,500-1 to some bookmakers. He once played the Hooters developmental tour, decided the pro grind wasn’t for him and eventually regained his amateur status. He qualified for the Masters by winning the Mid-Am in October, basically clinching it with a 290-yard, par 4 hole-in-one double eagle at the third 33rd hole.

The years ending in six often conjure up magic at Augusta National, good and bad.

Heartache was felt by amateur Ken Venturi in 1956 and Greg Norman in 1996. A more celebratory mood struck Jack Nicklaus in 1966, his third Green Jacket, and 1986, the inexplicable sixth Nicklaus win, as well as record-setting Raymond Floyd in 1976 and Phil Mickelson 2006.

This year, the number sticks out specifically for Rory McIlroy. He needs a Masters victory to become the sixth player to complete the career grand slam.

Golf channel analyst David Duval on why he considers Jason Day the favorite: “He’s playing better than anyone else and really has been for eight or nine months. … I see him managing himself better than the other players, and I see him having more fun and ease with which he’s doing it.”

Q: It’s often said that this tournament doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday. What do you think changes here halfway through that round?

McIlroy: “I’d say it starts a lot sooner than that (laughter). Jordan Spieth had it won after 36 holes last year. I think it’s imperative to get off to a great start here, a good start. You look at a lot of Masters champions in the past, they have been right up there from the first day. I think it’s important to get a good 36 holes under your belt and play well.”

Defending champion Spieth, Day and McIlroy are all 7-1 odds to win, according to Odds Shark. Bubba Watson and Adam Scott are 10-1.

For Wednesday, it will be a low around 40 and breezy, with a high around 70. No chance of rain Wednesday during the day, but the likelihood increases to about 80 percent Wednesday night and 50 percent Thursday till about 9 a.m.

View full experience