Ready for the Masters

ATHENS, Ga. -- Bryden Macpherson plans to stay at Augusta National's fabled Crow's Nest for one night before this week's Masters, but after that the former Georgia golfer plans to share a rented house in Augusta with a group of visitors from his native Australia.

The Crow's Nest is the dormitory-style area on the third floor of the Augusta National clubhouse which is available to amateur Masters competitors during tournament week. Macpherson, however, said he would prefer a bit more elbow room in his lodging area as he prepares for one of the biggest golf tournaments of his life.

"It's cool because it's at the National," said Macpherson, one of six amateurs in the Masters field, "but more than one night just becomes six blokes sharing a room."

Macpherson, 21, played his way into the Masters field by winning the British Amateur last summer.

Just two weeks after Macpherson's sparkling play helped Georgia's golf team reach the final of the NCAA championships, he defeated Scotland's Michael Stewart 3 and 2 in a 36-hole finale at the British Amateur, becoming the first Aussie to win the world's most historic amateur golf tournament since 1954.

Approximately 6,000 miles away, Macpherson's college coach Chris Haack and Georgia teammate Russell Henley were following the match online as Henley prepared to compete in the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

"Somebody was doing some type of feed where guys were reporting hole-by-hole, so Russell and I were keeping up with it and just the whole time thinking, 'Gosh, can he really win this thing and go to the Masters?' " Haack recalled. "Then at some point we realized, I think when he was 2-up with three to go or four to go, we were kind of looking at each other going, 'He's going to the Masters!' It's funny, because you don't say it in terms of, 'He's about to win the British Amateur,' or 'He's going to the [British] Open.' It was, 'He's going to the Masters.' That's what we immediately think of."

That victory also secured a spot in last summer's British Open, where he missed the cut by one stroke, and this year's U.S. Open.

However, Macpherson will not be in the field for this year's U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco. He intends to turn pro next Monday, which would cancel his invitation to compete at Olympic as an amateur.

"It's the first year they've exempted the British Am champ, but I'm going to be forgoing that by turning pro," Macpherson said. "I've got a start in Jack's [Nicklaus] event, the Memorial Tournament, as a professional.

"I kind of weigh it up as if I was to win one, yeah the U.S. Open would be more influential as an amateur, but if you play in the Memorial as a pro and you just play well -- say you finish 20th or 15th or 10th, that's going to mean a lot more than finishing 10th at the U.S. Open as an amateur."

But first, Macpherson has some work to do at Augusta National, where he hopes to claim the prestigious Silver Cup given to the tournament's low amateur -- and that's just for starters.

Macpherson played the course for the sixth time last Saturday along with fellow Aussie Aaron Baddeley, who also happened to be visiting the course for a pre-Masters tuneup. Macpherson shot a 2-under 34 on the front nine, which included two 5-foot putts that lipped out.

"I was just thinking, 'I can do this. I can play around here.' It's not an unbeatable course," Macpherson said. "It's the situation that is unbeatable, so if you try and rise above the fact that it's the Masters and rise above the fact that there are millions of people watching you play, that's the part you can't beat. But the golf course is manageable."

Hundreds of Masters competitors likely have shared those thoughts when the course was quiet, before thousands of patrons pack each hole and the true pressure of tournament week arrives.

Macpherson realizes that will change everything and admits he doesn't know exactly what to expect.

"I have no idea. I expect to be nervous," he laughed.

During this week's run-up to Thursday's first round, Macpherson plans to seek the counsel of some Masters regulars to help him prepare for the event, both on the course and from a mental standpoint.

"My goal would be to play a practice round or have a sit-down or have lunch with someone who's won the event," Macpherson said. "Or someone who has contended in the event a lot, like Phil or Tom Watson, someone like that. The guys that have competed in the event over a long period of time and know their way around the golf course and know what the week's like and know what to expect."

History has not been on amateur competitors' side in recent years. Only two of 11 amateurs made the cut in the last two years -- Hideki Matsuyama last year and Matteo Manassero in 2010 -- and no amateurs made the cut in either 2008 or 2009.

An amateur has never won the Masters, although Ken Venturi came close when he finished as runner-up to Jackie Burke in 1956.

Macpherson did not feel like he was anywhere near ready for the year's first major when he finally decided to leave UGA in early February, opting to spend the next five weeks focusing solely on golf so he could be fully prepared for Augusta National.

While the timing of his decision raised some eyebrows, Macpherson said it did not reflect on his feelings toward the Georgia golf program. He believes he needed extensive work with his coaches and that the work has paid off.

Last week, Macpherson beat defending U.S. Amateur champ Kelly Kraft 2 and 1 at the Georgia Cup exhibition in Alpharetta, Ga., and he said he is as prepared for the Masters as he could possibly be.

"It was a really hard decision and I'm not usually a very selfish person, but it was really the first big selfish decision I had to make. And it has paid off," Macpherson said. "There's no hard feelings -- as far as I know -- here with the school or anyone.

"They all understand and they know I'm going to continue to support the program because the things that I learned here are what won me the British Amateur. There's a reason why the British Amateur trophy is at [UGA's] Boyd Golf Center, not in Australia. It's the things I learned here in a year and a half that helped me win that event."