As Augusta National Golf Club’s “go-to” man when it needs a noncompeting marker, Jeff Knox is just thrilled to be part of the Masters Tournament.
Drawing defending Masters champion Bubba Watson, as Knox did in Saturday’s third round, was an extra bonus.
“I just played with the Masters champion,” Knox said of Watson, who shot 70. “That was awesome. What an incredible experience for me, especially with a guy like Bubba who’s really passionate about his championship here. He’s a great ambassador for the Masters Tournament. I was tickled to death to play with him.”
The feeling was mutual.
“You know, the best part about it, is Knox, a University of Georgia alum,” Watson said. “I met him about 10, 12 years ago. So it was fun. It was fun hanging out with him and just enjoying the day.”
Knox goes back with Watson to Watson’s playing days at Georgia, when he and other members sponsored the Bulldogs for a round at Augusta National.
“He remembered that,” said Knox, a 1984 Georgia graduate. “We talked a lot about the Bulldogs and the University of Georgia and our time there. That was fun.”
Knox said Watson asked him about the two-shot penalty Tiger Woods was given Saturday morning for an improper drop on Friday. Knox said he found out the details and relayed them to Watson.
Knox was asked if he outdrove the long-hitting Watson on any holes.
“Yeah, No. 7,” he said. “Because he hit a 4-iron off the tee. I hit driver. I was 30 yards past him.”
Knox, an Augusta resident and Augusta National member who holds the course record from the members tees at the course with 61, was first called to be a marker by then-Chairman Hootie Johnson in 2002. Billy Payne, the current chairman, has kept that tradition going.
Knox’s playing partners aren’t nearly as excited about playing with Knox as he is with them. He draws a player who has – or is tied for – the highest score in the field through 36 or 54 holes.
“No one wants to play with me very much because that means they’re in last place,” Knox said. “They’re stuck with me.”
As a noncompeting marker, Knox’s score doesn’t count. His job is threefold: he keeps the participant’s scorecard, gives the player someone to play with and helps with pace of play.
Since Knox and his playing partner are always off in the first group of the day, pace of play usually isn’t an issue. It certainly wasn’t on Saturday – Watson and Knox played in three hours, 20 minutes.
“Bubba has some long legs,” Knox said. “I just turned 50 last year; I was huffing and puffing up those hills. I like the fast pace. He obviously does as well.”
Knox had three birdies Saturday (Nos. 3, 8 and 12).
“I played good and bad,” Knox said. “I picked up a couple of short putts. If you give me those putts, I think I shot about 6-over-par (78).”
Knox’s friends told him he nearly eagled the par-4 third hole. It was a blind shot from the fairway and the ball ended up inches from the cup, he said.
On the famous par-3 12th, he rolled in an 8-footer for birdie.
“That was kind of neat before that huge crowd,” Knox said. “I couldn’t feel my knees.”
Sunday, Knox will play with another major championship winner. He’ll join Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner, in the first group off the tee.