Kelly Kraft savoring Masters experience

Denton's Kelly Kraft, the reigning U.S. Amateur Champion who played golf at SMU, is enjoying every minute of his Masters experience.

Kraft played a few rounds at Augusta National the last few months after his U.S. Amateur victory last summer put him in the field. He arrived last Friday and wanted to take in as much of the course and tournament as he could. He watched as the traditional tee shots to open the Masters were hit by some of the greats, including Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. Kraft is staying at the Crow's Nest, a tradition for amateurs. The four-bed room apartment of sorts is in the Augusta National clubhouse.

"I can walk downstairs to the green and right out onto the course," Kraft said. "A lot of great players have stayed up there. You can take in the whole deal. It's a great experience."

Kraft said there are four small rooms with twin beds and a common area with a TV. He only has one roommate -- amateur Patrick Cantlay. Kraft beat Cantlay in the finals to win the U.S. Amateur.

Kraft is paired with defending champion Charl Schwartzel and PGA Champion (and Nelson winner) Keegan Bradley for the first two rounds. And the entire group held its own in the first round. Bradley was 1-under, Schwartzel finished even and Kraft was at 2-over par.

Kraft managed to make four straight birdies during his opening round, doing so at Nos. 12 through 15. That's pretty impressive, considering that's part of Amen Corner. In fact, Kraft went 2-under through Amen Corner -- Nos. 11-13 -- but dropped a shot at holes 17 and 18 to end up over par.

"I'll take 2-under at Amen Corner any day," Kraft said. "I would have liked to have played better on those last holes."

Kraft played in front of Tiger Woods' group Thursday and saw firsthand all the patrons surrounding the most famous golfer on the course.

"He would make a long putt or a good shot and they would go crazy," Kraft said.

His goal remains what it was when the week started: Make the cut and see what happens on the weekend. He tees off at 12:31 central time Friday.