Photo courtesy of The Masters
With the Silver Cup secured, it might be time for Sam Bennett
to reassess his goals this weekend at The Masters.
The reigning U.S. Amateur
champion carded his second consecutive round of 68 on Friday and at 8-under, is just four shots behind 36-hole leader Brooks Koepka (-12) heading into the weekend.
After getting off to a birdie-eagle start on Thursday, Bennett again birdied his first hole on Friday and added four more on the day on holes 8, 9, 13 and 14 to card his second consecutive 4-under round at Augusta National.
Bennett, a senior at Texas A&M, was in solo third when play was suspended for the day due to weather. Jon Rahm was 2-under through his first nine holes to move to 9-under for the tournament. Viktor Hovland was 1-over on his round through 10 holes and 6-under for the tournament while Collin Morikawa shot a second-round 69 and also sits at 6-under.
Over the first 36-holes, Bennett beat his playing partners Max Homa (E), the world’s fifth-ranked player and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (-1), he defending Masters champion, by a combined 15 shots. His 36-hole total of 136 is the second-best mark in Masters history behind Ken Venturi (135) in 1956.
"It's been incredible," said Bennett. "To get off to the start I did yesterday to put up a bogey-free round and to back it up today with another solid round was nice. I hit one bad shot on No. 4 when my hybrid didn't cut and made a bogey but other than that it was pretty spot on."
Though Bennett has entered rarified air at Augusta, he is embracing the moment and is not ready to rest on his 36-hole laurels.
"I love being in big-time situations and using being nervous to my advantage," said Bennett. "To put up two solid rounds and give myself a chance going into the weekend, it's going to be fun."
Bennett has always had an air of confidence about him, more rooted in an unabiding belief in himself rather than brash cockiness. Just last year at the U.S. Amateur, he said, “I’m the dog in this race.” The dog certainly had his day last September at Ridgewood Country Club and now, fast forward eight months, Bennett finds himself with a chance to make history on golf's biggest stage.
"Yeah, I don't hit it far like (Gordon) Sargent. I don't have 190 ball speed. I don't have a pretty swing like some of the other amateurs. It's golf, not a golf swing. I've done the right things this week. I was prepared. I was more experienced than the other guys, and yeah, here I sit here with a chance to go on the weekend and do something special."
Others might have been setting the bar too low for the soft-spoken 23-year-old from Madisonville, Texas heading into the week.
"Before the week everybody was telling me they hoped I got low amateur, but that leaves only six guys to beat. There's a Green Jacket on the line. I felt like I'm experienced and prepared and did a lot of good work in the practice rounds. I feel like I belong on this stage."
Belong he does and Bennett didn't pull any punches when asked why he thinks he can track down Koepka and ultimately do the unthinkable come Sunday.
"Because I know that my good golf is good enough."
The stage lights will get a little brighter and warmer this weekend, but if anyone likes a good challenge, it's Sam Bennett.
ABOUT THE The Masters
One of Golf's four professional majors
traditionally invites amateurs who have reached
finals of the US Amateur, or won the British
the US Mid Amateur. Also included are
the winners of the relatively new Asia Pacific
and Latin American Amateur.
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