Patrick Cantlay is an amateur playing in the Masters for the first time this week.

But Cantlay is no stranger to major championship pressure.


Cantlay, who plays at UCLA, finished as the low amateur last summer in the U.S. Open. He earned his spot at Augusta National Golf Club this week by finishing as the runner-up in the U.S. Amateur last summer.


"It's helped me a lot, especially getting comfortable and not being overwhelmed by the atmosphere of the tournament," Cantlay said of last year's experience. "So it's nice that it's not my first major, as well as my first Masters."


Cantlay is one of six amateurs in this year's field. He is joined by Kelly Kraft, who beat Cantlay in the U.S. Amateur final, along with Corbin Mills (U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship), Randal Lewis (Mid-Amateur Championship), Hideki Matsuyama (Asian Amateur Championship) and Bryden Macpherson (British Amateur Championship).


No amateur ever has won the tournament, while Frank Stranahan (1947), Ken Venturi (1956) and Charles Coe (1961) all finished second. Venturi had the low amateur round with a 66 in 1956, while Coe had the low four-round score at 281 in 1966.


Cantlay, however, doesn't sound fazed.


"It's a dream come true to play here at Augusta, and to play as an amateur makes it even more special," he said. "I do feel like I can win this week. I feel like any tournament I tee it up in, if I play well, I have a chance to win."


Matsuyama finished tied for 27th last year with a 1-under-par 287. Lewis (54) was the oldest ever winner of the Mid-Amateur, and he played a practice round with Phil Mickelson.


"I ran into him when I was here, and I was playing with some of the members the following day, and we had room for one more, needed a fourth to make a game and asked Randy if he wanted to join, and he was available," Mickelson said. "I thought that he had a really solid game, kept the ball in play. I think it's really cool what he did, winning the Mid-Am as a gentleman eligible for the Senior Am. I love that story. I hope he has a good week."

(c)2012 The Macon Telegraph 

Distributed by MCT Information Services