April 11, 2009

Courtesy of Michigan State Athletics

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Although he felt disappointed with his finish today, Jack Newman represented himself, Michigan State University and his home state of Iowa admirably this week at the 73rd Masters Tournament. Newman fired a second round four-over par 76 to finish in a tie for 65th at four-over par 148. He was also the second-best amateur in the field, ending up a stroke behind British Amateur champion Reinier Saxton. It was the best finish by a U.S. Amateur Public Links champion at the Masters since Ryan Moore finished in a tie for 13th in 2005.

The MSU junior went off in perfect weather this morning, stepping to the tee markers just after 8:55. Newman's day began with three consecutive pars. His initial drive ended up in the right fairway bunker and he muscled his second shot just off the green to the right. Newman slid his third shot above the hole to set up a 12-foot downhill putt which he sunk. On the second hole he put his drive down the right side and laid up to 60 yards. He placed his third shot about 10 feet to the right of the pin, placed in the back left of the green. His putt slid just low of the hole for a 2-putt par. Newman used a 3-wood off the tee on the third and put it down the middle, but flew his approach shot a couple feet over the green. He used his putter through the fringe to within a foot for a tap-in par.

Three bogeys in the next four holes followed to move Newman to three-over through seven holes. On the par-3 fourth, his tee shot danced on the top of the right side bunker before eventually trickling in. The location forced him to play his ball about 25 feet above the hole and would have to settle for the 2-putt bogey. His fifth tee shot ricocheted off a cart along the right fairway keeping it in play. Newman ripped his second shot to 50-yards in front of the green and went on to chip up about 10 feet past the hole. His putt down lipped out for back-to-back bogeys. Newman pared the sixth hole, placing his tee shot to the center of the green and 2-putting to the right side pin placement.

Newman righted the ship in the final two holes in the first nine, posting a par on the uphill, par-5 eighth and grabbing his first birdie of the day at the difficult par-4 ninth. A right side drive, followed by a left fairway second shot and a middle of the green approach set up Newman at the eighth. His putt came up just short, having to settle for par. He ripped his drive into the wind at the ninth and played a perfect second shot to eight feet. Newman sunk the putt to the delight of the crowd for a front side two-over 38. His birdie on the 9th was one of only 12 there today.

For the second-straight day, Newman bogeyed the 10th to move to three-over. He followed with an impressive par at 11, which was the second hardest hole on the course in the second round (4.41 average). With the wind hard in their face, Newman was on top of a knob in front of the green in two. His chip shot rolled just past the cup and settled two feet away for a tap-in par. The par-3 12th hole deemed to be the dagger for Newman as he dropped his tee shot into Rae's Creek and double-bogeyed. In fact, all three members of Newman's group - Fred Couples and Rocco Mediate - dropped their tee shots into the water and the hole played as the hardest today with a 3.49 average.

Newman had his second birdie of the day at the par-5 13th. His tee shot settled along the right side of the fairway allowing his to try to go for the green in two. His attempted ended up in the left greenside bunker, but had a sand save to 6-8 feet for birdie. Newman would give the stroke back on 14 as his par putt from eight feet burned the edge of the cup. He had a shot at another birdie on the 15th, but again had his putt from inside 10-feet slide just past the hole.

The par-3, 170-yard 16th ended up being the highlight of the day - and maybe even the tournament - for Newman. He fired an 8-iron to the right side pin placement, where it hit in front of the pin and took one short skip to the left before settling within six inches of the hole. Newman would tap it in for his second birdie in two days at the hole. In the second round, the 16th was the sixth most difficult hole (3.22 average) and allowed only 13 birdies.

Newman had two birdie putts within 15 feet in the final two holes to improve his final score, but each barely missed. He settled with a pair of pars to finish and a second nine two-over 38.

He hit 8-of-18 greens in regulation (50.0%) and 8-of-14 fairways (57.1%). In addition, Newman had 29 putts and had a 273.5 driving average. With his three birdies today, Newman is 16th after 36 holes with nine birdies.

After his round, Newman had a brief chat at the back of the 18th green with Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Wisenhunt, an Augusta native. Coach Wisenhunt, who followed Newman around for much of the second nine, said he was impressed with play and demeanor out on the course, and wished him luck in the future. In addition, Clair Peterson, the tournament director of the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois, met Newman as he walked towards the clubhouse and offered him a sponsor's exemption into this year's tournament. It did not take him much time to accept the offer.

Newman wrapped up his impressions of this week at Augusta to Golf Digest in his fourth "Masters Amateur Diary" entry. To read Friday's report, click here.