LOS ANGELES – Patrick Cantlay will return to the Masters this spring for the first time since 2012, but neither journey down Magnolia Lane compares to his first trip to Augusta National.
In 2011, Cantlay was a freshman at UCLA and the Bruins played the annual college event in Augusta, Ga., which is held the weekend before the Masters.
“My coach made us all go to the Masters and watch on Monday the practice round, and I was miserable,” he said on Thursday following a first-round 66 that left him tied for the lead at the Genesis Open.
For all those who pine to attend the Masters, understand that Cantlay had his reasons for being less than thrilled to attend the tournament.
“I missed playing in the Masters, I lost to Peter Uihlein in the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur that summer,” he explained. “I felt like I should have been playing and I was miserable.”
The highlight of the day, however, came when Cantlay found a spot next to the practice putting green and he watched two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw work his magic.
“Every putt would roll down there. He was hitting big lag putts down there like this, maybe this much [inches] short, this much past, every one exactly the same, working on his speed, big high lines,” Cantlay recalled.
Vijay Singh was also practicing his putting that day, but the contrast in styles was evident.
“Vijay was hooked up to a machine like this, this left hand low, he had four people, he'd hit three, they'd go 8 feet by, a foot short,” Cantlay said. “He'd turn around, he'd look at the guys, they'd talk, and then he'd go to the next one.”
The divergent styles stood out to Cantlay, who would tie for 47th the next year at the Masters.
“I remember seeing the difference between Crenshaw and Vijay in putting and I thought, wow, there's a way I want to do it,” he said.