Before arriving at Augusta National for the 84th Masters, John Augenstein had certainly done his homework. The 23-year-old, who returned this season for a fifth year at Vanderbilt, made five scouting trips to Augusta, Georgia.
Augenstein, of Owensboro, Kentucky, sought tips from Webb Simpson, with whom his caddie William Kane is a friend, and Justin Thomas, another Kentucky native. He practiced shots from every kind of non-flat lie you could find.
And early in the Masters, it showed.
At one point on Friday, Augenstein was 6 under and only two shots off the lead. He only made it through 12 holes of his first round on Thursday, and came back Friday morning to play the remaining six holes. Right out of the gate, he made eagle on No. 13.
Augenstein faced 215 yards to the green on No. 13 and choked a 4-iron. He caught it a little thin and watched it roll back to a collection area near the green, leaving an easy chip – which he holed.
“Obviously you never know you’re going to make it, but I felt pretty good about getting it up and down and just kind of came off right and caught the right edge and went in,” he said.
The Vandy star cruised home with pars for a 3-under 69 that set up Friday afternoon’s surge.
Augenstein rolled right into his second round. Starting on the 10th, he made three bogeys on the back nine. A bogey on No. 5 and a double-bogey on No. 7, however, provided a major setback. After one final birdie on No. 8, Augenstein signed for a 72.
Oh, what could have been. But also, what still might be.
Augenstein was still 3 under through 36 holes, and by mid-afternoon Friday, was the only one of the six amateurs under par. That had him inside the projected cutline.
Even after the completion of his first round, Augenstein was preparing for the golf course to become more and more difficult. And Augenstein has never shied away from difficult things. He is a player known for his toughness in a head-to-head format, which is exactly what got him to Augusta. He won five of six matches at the 2019 U.S. Amateur, losing only to Andy Ogletree.
“It’s going to be warm this afternoon and no rain for the next three days it looks like,” Augenstein said of Augusta National in the short break between his first two rounds. “So I would imagine it gets a little tougher each day. Pleased with how I played but left some out there but also made a couple.”
In preparing to play the Masters, Augenstein told Golfweek he didn’t really have a major revelation.
“It’s a big golf course that ideally, you kind of want to hit it as far as you can on most holes,” he said. “I think it bodes well for me, a pretty long player. Everybody is pretty long nowadays.
“In the fairway is obviously a premium at all times, being able to control the ball going into the greens is very important.”
Augenstein works with instructor Matt Killen, who has much experience preparing players for Augusta. For the past several months, the two have focused primarily on shot shaping. It’s something Augenstein loves to do.
“It’s just been good practice because I think it’s going to bode well for me when I’m there,” he told Golfweek before Masters week. “On top of all of that it is golf and at the end of the day, I feel very prepared for what I’m getting ready to go into. But by the same token, it’s all about getting the ball in the hole in as little shots as possible.”
Yet to be determined? Whether Augenstein will get a chance to make a little more noise over the weekend.