Viktor Hovland leads four amateurs into the Masters weekend

U.S. Amateur champion Viktor Hovland (T29/-1) leads the four amateurs to make the cut, including Alvaro Ortiz (T36/E), Devon Bling (T57/+3) and Takumi Kanaya (T57/+3)

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Takumi Kanaya of Japan plays a stroke from the No. 2 tee during the second round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, Friday, April 12, 2019.

12 April 2019: Every amateur who tees it up in the Masters dreams of playing well enough to win a Green Jacket. But deep down, they know a more realistic goal is to make the cut and concentrate on winning the Silver Cup awarded to the Low Amateur. It is asking too much of those players to do more than that against the top touring professionals in the world.

But making the cut is no snap either, and that has been especially so the past two decades. Rarely has more than one amateur in any given year made it to weekend play during that time. Often, the number has been zero.

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This year, however, the amateurs in the field have really shined, with four of the six surviving the 36-hole cut and qualifying for the final two rounds. The last time so many made the cut was in 1999. They included future Masters champions Sergio Garcia and Trevor Immelman, as well as Matt Kuchar, now a PGA Tour star. One must go back to 1978 to find a year when that number was higher. 

The lowest-scoring amateur so far this week is the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, Viktor Hovland of Norway, who followed a first-round 72 with a 71 to stand at 1-under. Latin American Amateur winner Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico did nearly as well, ending up at even par.

Right on the cut line at 3-over were Japan’s Takumi Kanaya, who won last year’s Asia-Pacific Amateur, and Devon Bling of the United States, who lost to Hovland in the finals of last year’s U.S. Amateur. Only Jovan Rebula of South Africa, winner of the 2018 British Amateur, and U.S. Mid-Amateur titleholder Kevin O’Connell missed the cut.

Not surprisingly, those amateurs who are still in the Tournament are thrilled.

“Oh man, it means the world,” said Ortiz, who birdied three of his last five holes on Friday. “At some point in the round today, I thought things were getting out of hand. I thought I was losing my game and wasn’t going to make the cut. But I found something on 14 and then hit that great shot at 15, and that really helped me get some confidence going into the weekend.” 

Kanaya and Bling should be equally as self-assured, having fought hard to finish their first two Masters rounds at 3-over. After shooting 39 on the first nine and bogeying No. 13, Kanaya looked like he might be a spectator on Saturday and Sunday, not a contestant. But then he made birdies on 15 and 16, and a nervy up-and-down on 18 for par.

“Today, I learned that you never give up,” said Kanaya, who is attending Tohoku Fukushi University, Hideki Matsuyama’s alma mater in the Japanese city of Sendei.

Bling derived an equally important education on Friday when he went 1-under par over the last four holes, a run that included a nifty deuce on No. 16. “I held up pretty well,” the 19-year-old UCLA student said. “I handled myself well in difficult situations.”

Now comes the weekend.

Republished from the Masters