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Posted April 5, 2021, 6:03 pm
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Patrick Cantlay taps into Fred Couples for Augusta National insights at Masters

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    Patrick Cantlay (left) had a front-row seat for the first three rounds of Dustin Johnson's win at the 2020 Masters. He hopes he can keep pace this year.

Before Patrick Cantlay won the 2018 Memorial Tournament, he picked the brain of club founder and former champion Jack Nicklaus. Could gaining insight into how to play Augusta National from past champion Fred Couples reap the same benefit?

Only time will tell, but Cantlay is beginning to feel a level of comfort at the Masters Tournament, where his best result is a ninth-place finish in 2019.

“I think I’ve tried to draw a lot on Fred Couples’ knowledge,” said the No. 10 player in the world ranking, who teamed with Couples in a practice-round match against Xander Schauffele and Max Homa.

Cantlay has gotten to know Couples quite well in recent years after Couples moved to Newport Beach, Calif., not far from where Cantlay grew up.

“We played almost every Sunday when I was home,” said Cantlay, who noted that Couples is “much more cerebral than maybe you would imagine. I mean, people think, oh, he’s a freak, he just hits it close because he can feel it from 175. But it’s not as much that. I think instinctively he picks the right shot a lot, either a draw or a fade, and then he puts the right input into his brain.”

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Cantlay trailed Dustin Johnson by one stroke heading into the weekend at the Masters in November and played the first three rounds alongside Johnson. But Cantlay got left in the dust on Saturday, as Johnson shot 65 to his 73, and tied for 17th.

“I think he birdied maybe four of the first six or four of the first seven or something like that,” Cantlay said. “That was impressive because the course was playing more difficult that day.”

Cantlay has finished in the top three twice so far this season, and arrived early to play a couple of practice rounds at Augusta National last week with friends.

“The more I play this place, the more I get comfortable with the shots,” Cantlay said. “I think confidence builds on itself around here. You hit those shots really well a few times in pressure situations, and that builds that picture and reinforces it even better, and you just take that every year going forward.”

Cantlay, 29, sounded like a wily veteran despite having only in four starts at a course he described as “a series of red, yellow and green lights.”

“Not as many yellows as red or greens, but when you do get on a red hole location, which would be like a back left hole location on the sixth hole, guys just aren’t making birdie to the back left hole location on the sixth hole, especially if it’s firm,” he explained.

Count Cantlay among the players who are encouraged that the course is playing fast and firm this year, rather than the softer conditions that prevailed in November when Johnson shot a tournament record 20-under 268.

“I expect it to get really firm and fast, and I think that’s when this golf course shines,” said Cantlay. “And then I love fast, old-school putting greens. And so this is the, you know, apex of that. It’s the most undulated, in general, fastest greens we play all year. It feels easier for me to make putts when it’s like that, and I look forward to that every time I come here.”
 

Masters Record

Year Place Score 1 2 3 4 Earnings
2020 T17 -7 70 66 73 72 $178,250
2019 T9 -10 73 73 64 68 $310,500
2018 T58 +7 75 76     $10,000
2012 T47 +7 71 78 74 72 $0