DORAL, Fla. — The big carrot is dangling in front of Scott Jamieson this week and he appreciates how fortunate he is to chase his Masters Tournament dream.
"Four months ago all of this maybe would have seemed a bit far-fetched," said Jamieson, the former Augusta State golfer playing in his first World Golf Championship event at Doral. "This week could take care of a lot of things."
Jamieson is ranked 75th in the world, tantalizingly close to the top 50 that can secure a spot in the Masters at the end of the month. For a guy who climbed from 214th to 100th in 2012, this is heady territory playing amongst the best golfers in the world.
A top-three finish at Doral could move him inside that magic top 50, and a 2-under-par 70 in Thursday's first round leaves him only four shots off the lead.
"I'm just trying to acknowledge that a big week will do it but sort of focus on the shot in front of me," he said. "In the past sometimes I've been guilty of adding more pressure on myself because of different opportunities that might be there."
Jamieson earned his spot in the WGC field by ranking second on the European Tour money list this season, just ahead of South African major winners Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
His climb began in December in Durban, South Africa, when he won a three-man playoff in the water-logged Nelson Mandela Championship to open the 2013 European Tour season. On a course reduced to par-65 because of flooding, Jamieson fired 57 in the final round.
"It's pretty cool to say you shot 57 to win a tournament," he said. "It was slightly comical I suppose because it just seemed so ludicrous. Amongst peers they still respected I shot 8-under the last day to get into a playoff. It was an unusual week but I'll gladly win it anytime."
That result triggered Jamieson's rise in the ranks. He finished third the next week in the Alfred Dunhill Championship and second in his next start to suddenly put the thought of qualifying for the Masters on his radar.
That runner-up finish, however, was a bit disappointing after losing a five-shot, 54-hole lead to a charging Oosthuizen.
"Any time you have a five-shot lead you expect to win," he said. "Got off to a great start that day, 2-under through four, and then a bad tee shot made a double bogey. Put the brakes on from there and sort of felt like I was having to be slightly defensive to avoid the massive collapse. I did well after that because it was a brand new situation for me in a tournament of that scale.
"In hindsight it was disappointing, for sure. But when I finished second, everything started progressing and I started to think this can be done."
Augusta is such a big dream for Jamieson, it's written into his European Tour bio. He spent five years in Augusta earning his degree in business and marketing before launching his pro career from there living in teammate Emmett Turner's basement. The perk of being a Jaguar was attending the Masters each year and getting to play the famous course annually.
"I've tasted just how special it is, so it would mean a lot more," he said, acknowledging his best score in four rounds at Augusta was 74.
Jamieson admits a great desire to qualify this year so he can represent "Augusta State." The subject of the school's name change came up Thursday with his former teammate Jay Haas Jr., who was caddying in Jamieson's group for Bill Haas. Jamieson said he would never have come from Glasgow, Scotland, to Augusta to play for a school called Georgia Regents.
"It's very disappointing," he said of the loss of Augusta State's identity. "We were talking about it today, and even Bill was saying he can't believe it and it seems so ludicrous and such a shame for the program. Vaughn Taylor said it could hurt the program and I completely agree. I wasn't even there when the guys behind me won back-to-back national championships. It's almost like it didn't exist, which isn't fair at all, I don't think."
That motivation to represent "Augusta" at Augusta this year is strong, but Jamieson isn't going to fret if it doesn't happen this time. Unless he has a high finish at Doral, he'd almost certainly have to win one of his next two starts on the European Tour in Malaysia and Morocco to reach the top 50.
"It's a very big ask for me to get there because things have happened so fast," he said. "It won't be too disappointing if I don't get there because I'm a lot closer to getting there next year than where I was at this time last year. In the big picture everything is looking good right now."
Just being here this week in a 65-man field with Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and the rest of golf's elite is a significant stepping stone for Jamieson.
"This week will be a great test to see how at the end of the week I've played and stood up against the best guys in the world with every one of them being here," he said. "I've run across a lot of them before but not necessarily in a field this strong. It will be a great way to judge just how close it really is."