IN A week’s time, Bradley Neil is hoping to be playing a practice round at Augusta with Rory McIlroy, who suggested the possible dream Masters warm-up for the young Scot when they bumped into each other at the Georgia venue last Friday.
“We had a good chat in the breakfast room and he kindly said we could have nine holes together, probably on the Monday or Tuesday,” reported Neil over the weekend.
Before the Blairgowrie teenager can start to fully get caught up in the excitement of that happening in the week McIlroy can become just the sixth player to complete golf’s career Grand Slam, though, he has important business to attend to today in the Peach State.
In a traditional pre-Masters event, Neil, as the Amateur champion, is taking part in the Georgia Cup, which pits him against the US Amateur champion, 21-year-old South Korean Gunn Yang, over 18 holes at the Golf Club of Georgia.
“I don’t go into any tournaments or matches not wanting to win and this is no exception,” declared Neil, the first Scot to be involved in the event since Richie Ramsay competed in 2007 as the US Amateur champion. “It would be a lovely thing to have on the CV. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of him [Yang] before, but I don’t think he’d heard of me before I won the Amateur.
Played since 1998, last year’s event was an-all English affair that saw Garrick Porteous, the 2013 Scottish Amateur Open Stroke Play champion from Bamburgh, beat Matt Fitzpatrick. It was the third year running that the Amateur champion had come out on top.
“It’s a nice thing to be part of and to be able to play in,” added Neil, who used up his quota of five practice rounds at Augusta in the months before the tournament during what was a second visit last week.
“It’s good preparation as well for the Masters. They try to get the course in a similar condition to Augusta. So firm, fast greens... they try to get you to play like you will have to at Augusta. So it is beneficial.”
As have those practice rounds, which have allowed Neil to not only get the “wow factor” out of the way before tournament week but also in getting a feel of the shots he’ll need to play in a seven-strong battle to be low amateur.
“I haven’t played one ball yet,” he said. “You’ve got to experiment with different shots, plot the greens, you’ve got to try and replicate as many shots as when you’re in the tournament.
“So that’s what I’ve been doing, no matter how tempting I’ve been to see what I could score. I still have so much to learn about it, but I’ve still got eight more days there before the tournament starts.”
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