Ogletree’s pairing with Tiger put on hold
April 08, 2020
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Andy Ogletree qualified for the Masters by winning the 2019 U.S. Amateur Championship. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Andy Ogletree has imagined hitting that tee shot many times. It always ends up in the same spot, just past the deep bunker that guards the right side of Augusta National’s first fairway.
Ogletree was scheduled to hit that tee shot today in the first round of the Masters. But then the world was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. Sports, like the rest of life, were impacted, and the Masters is no exception. The tournament was pushed back seven months, to Nov. 12-15.
Fans and players alike anticipate this rite of spring with unparalleled excitement, but Ogletree has a unique perspective. He wasn’t just scheduled to play his first Masters. He was going to play with Tiger Woods.
“I’ve thought about it a lot. I’m not going to lie,” he said.
He doesn’t let those thoughts travel past the first tee shot, though.
“I’ve played that tee shot a lot in my head, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The gameplan is to focus on the first one and then add them up from there,” he said.
Pairings for this year’s Masters haven’t been released, but pairing the U.S. Amateur and Masters champions is one of the tournament’s many traditions. Augusta National was co-founded by the greatest amateur of all time, the incomparable Bobby Jones, and its respect for the amateur game runs deep.
Woods put on his fifth green jacket last April. Ogletree watched the final round in his apartment with his teammates.
“We all went crazy,” he said. “It’s definitely a day I’ll remember forever.”
Another one came four months later, at the historic Pinehurst Resort. Ogletree knew what was at stake when he faced John Augenstein in the final match of the U.S. Amateur.
“(Playing with Woods) was a big interview topic throughout the week,” Ogletree said.
Both finalists already had Masters invitations in hand, but only the winner would play with the 15-time major champion. Ogletree was 4 down after five holes but won four of the final seven holes for a 2-and-1 win. His four-hole deficit is believed to be the fourth-largest overcome by a champion. Woods was 6 down through 13 holes against Trip Kuehne in 1994. Two years later, he was 5 down after the morning round of the 36-hole match, as was Labron Harris in 1962.
“I was definitely looking forward to it,” Ogletree said about the Masters. “I’ll just keep looking forward to it for a while. It’s all perspective. I just have to have a positive outlook. That’s all I can do now.”
Ogletree also joins Jones and Matt Kuchar as Georgia Tech alums to hoist the Havemeyer Trophy as the U.S. Amateur champion. Kuchar, Ogletree and Jones’ grandson, Bobby Jones IV, all met at last year’s TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Kuchar also played with Woods in the Masters after winning the 1997 U.S. Amateur. Woods won that year’s Masters by 12 shots.
Woods beat Kuchar by just a stroke, 71 to 72, in the first round and just three strokes for the week. Woods finished T8, six shots behind Mark O’Meara, while Kuchar, then a college sophomore, impressed with a T21 finish. He finished T14 at that year’s U.S. Open, as well.
Kuchar and Ogletree are scheduled to play a practice round at the Masters, but perhaps Ogletree can also dispense some advice. He’s already played Augusta National in November. Last fall, he played the same weekend that that this year’s tournament is scheduled to be played.
Now he has even more time to prepare for his first major. His senior season at Georgia Tech was cut short by coronavirus, so he returned home to Mississippi to be with his family. His hometown of Little Rock, Mississippi, has approximately 2,000 residents.
“It’s a lot easier to social-distance here,” he said.
His U.S. Amateur win also earned him spots in The Open Championship, which has been pushed to back to 2021, and U.S. Open, which is now scheduled to be played in September. These changes have likely delayed his plans to turn pro. Every aspect of life is full of uncertainty right now.
For now, Ogletree is working on his game at two local courses.
“I’m sure I’ll watch this week. Anytime it’s Masters week, I’m watching with multiple screens,” Ogletree said. “It was always a big week for my family, as golf fans.”
This year, it will be even bigger.