Patrick Cantlay won the Silver Cup in 2012
At the 2013 Masters Tournament, six amateurs will battle to make the cut and finish as low amateur.
If that happens, the low amateur (having made the cut) will be awarded the Silver Cup in Butler Cabin following final-round play. Last year, Patrick Cantlay took home the top amateur prize.
The amateurs competing in the Masters this year are Alan Dunbar, Steven Fox, Tianlang Guan, Nathan Smith, T.J. Vogel and Michael Weaver. While each man has earned his invite to Augusta National, I feel Dunbar, Fox and Guan are the three golfers with the best chances of playing on the weekend.
Thirty-four-year-old Smith has played in two previous Masters, having never made the cut or shooting better than 74. Florida Gator golfer Vogel and Cal Bear golfer Weaver have never even played in a professional event.
While Dunbar, Fox and Guan haven't set the world on fire alongside professionals, they're very young golfers armed with recent professional experience.
Based upon a combination of youthful innocence and recent professional experience, let's look at how each of the three golfers ranks in terms of chasing the Silver Cup in 2013.
However, it took the 22-year-old 36 holes to finally defeat Australian Matthias Schwab. By doing so, the Portrush, Northern Ireland native earned spots in both the 2012 British Open and 2013 Masters.
At Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club last summer, Dubar fired opening rounds of 75 and 71 before eventually missing the cut. Nevertheless, the experience of competing in a major championship should prove to be extremely beneficial as he looks to make the cut at Augusta National.
Golfweek's Alistair Tate recently wrote:
Dunbar joins (fellow Northern Ireland golfers) Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke at Augusta National. What the 22-year-old wouldn’t give to be low Northern Irishman in this year’s Masters. Forget about making the cut, he might just win the green jacket if that were to happen.
Don’t bet on it, though. British Amateur champions don’t normally make the 36-hole cut at Augusta unless they are from Continental Europe. Matteo Manassero (2010) and Sergio Garcia (1999) are the only two British Amateur champions in recent memory to make the cut in the Masters.
However, if the youngster can adjust his links-style play at Augusta National, his Open Championship experience could be the difference in a run at low amateur over the weekend.
Further, he's expected to turn pro shortly after the Masters. He could make a huge splash with a solid performance at the year's first major championship. Can he follow in Cantlay's footsteps?
Tienlang "Langly" Guan will turn out to be one of the biggest stories at the Masters, especially if he can advance past Round Two at Augusta National.
The 14-year-old Chinese golfing prodigy will become the youngest player to ever compete in the Masters when he tees off on Thursday, April 11.
Guan reached the Masters by winning the Asia-Pacific Championship in 2012. In capturing the championship, he knocked of the likes of Cheng-tsung Pan (No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking) and two-time defending champion Hideki Matsuyama.
While the Chinese star plays excellent golf, he's had trouble competing in professional events. Golfweek's Sean Martin commented on Guan's struggles:
Guan has struggled in professional events, and understandably so. The Zhi Xin Middle School student is barely a teenager. He played two events in 2012 that offered Official World Golf Ranking points, missing the cut at both the Volvo China Open (77-79) and Emirates Australian Open (82-70).
At International Final Qualifying for this year’s Open Championship, he missed qualifying by 11 shots. He received good preparation for Augusta National earlier this year at the Australia Master of the Amateurs, held at another prestigious Alister Mackenzie design, Royal Melbourne. Guan opened with 68, but finished 19th after closing with three consecutive over-par rounds.
However, at only 14, the kid simply doesn't know any better than to expect a solid outing in the Masters.
His youth and innocence may be his greatest asset in first major championship appearance.
If he makes the cut and wins the Silver Cup, his ascent to fame will only rise in coming years.
Another 22-year-old, Fox beat the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (Chris Williams) to ultimately claim his trip to the Masters.
While he's played well on the amateur circuit, Fox has struggled in two PGA Tour appearances in 2013. At the Farmers Open, he shot opening rounds of 70 and 78 before missing the cut. At the recent Arnold Palmer Invitational, Fox fared even worse, with opening rounds of 78 and 81.
The U.S. Amateur champ talked about playing in front of PGA crowds with Golfweek's Sean Martin:
I like having the crowds. I play better when there’s crowds. That’s one of the things you have to get used to at Augusta, is the crowds. Tiger (Woods) was three or four groups behind us, so people were getting out there. I got to experience the crowds. I had no nerves whatsoever, if you want to take some positives from the week.
It'll be interesting to see how Fox performs in his third—and most intense—PGA outing of the season.
While he hasn't played in a major before, Fox's experience in two PGA events this year should prove to be useful when he takes to the course on golf's biggest stage.
Having knocked off the world's top amateur to be invited to Augusta, Fox should feel quite confident against his five amateur competitors in the Masters field. Why would he think otherwise?