One could consider the holy grail of all professional sports being an amateur contending at or even possibly winning the Masters. It's a romantic idea that often fills the minds of not only young, penniless golfers pursuing the game but those who follow and watch it as well.
Part of that is likely because of the mystique Bobby Jones left behind as part of his legacy (which also included the creation of Augusta National), but another of it is because of how rarely amateurs are truly elite. Think about this: How many amateurs have won a football or basketball national championship? Thousands, right? But fewer than 100 have won a U.S. Amateur. A lot fewer than that have legitimately contended for a Masters.
Not since 1961 has an amateur finished in the top 10 at Augusta National Golf Club. That year, two amateurs -- Charles Coe and Jack Nicklaus -- both notched top 10s. No amateur will do that in 2020, not with the quality of this field and the lack of superstar power among the ams, but we ranked all six in order of most likely to least likely to walk in the footsteps of Viktor Hovland, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay and Hideki Matsuyama as low am at this year's event.
World Amateur Golf Rankings in parenthesis
John Augenstein (No. 18): The Vanderbilt star finished runner-up to Andy Ogletree at the 2019 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst. His SEC resume is stout: Freshman of the Year, Player of the Year and three-time All-SEC. He's also a three-time All-American. Augenstein is clearly the most talented of this group and the favorite to finish as low amateur, even after missing the cut at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. hHis coach thinks Augusta will fit his game better than Winged Foot did.) Augenstein has the modern game -- not to mention attitude -- to legitimately play well here.
Andy Ogletree (No. 7): Ogletree, who won the U.S. Amateur over Augenstein last year, gets the added benefit (?) of playing the first two rounds at this year's Masters with the reigning champion who is ... oh yeah, Tiger Woods. "He was my idol growing up," Ogletree said recently. "Me and my brothers had tiger head covers and mock turtlenecks, the whole nine yards. In four PGA Tour events since winning that U.S. Am, Ogletree has missed the cut at all four, though he did fire a sweet little 71 on Thursday at the U.S. Open before succumbing to mighty Winged Foot in Round 2.
James Sugrue (No. 8): The Irishman also missed the cut at the U.S. Open after firing 78-79 to open up play, but he came back to make the cut at the Irish Open. He's in all of those tournaments based on his Amateur Championship win last June at Portmarnock. Sugrue has really played his way into being a strong amateur, but making the cut here will be a win for him.
Yuxin Lin (No. 29): Imagine being 20 years old, still in college and already playing your second Masters. That's where Lin stands after winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship for the second time last year. He took down another former winner there, Takumi Kanaya, in a playoff. Lin shot 79-80 in 2018 when Patrick Reed went on to win, but that feels like a lifetime ago right now. He should perform better this time around, but there does seem to be a bit of a gap after Sugrue with these final three golfers.
Lukas Michel (No. 84): The U.S. Mid-Am champion (who is from Australia) sounds a lot like a future golf course architect, but he'll need to unlock every secret at Alister Mackenzie's old place in north Georgia to have a shot at playing the weekend. Michael shot 80-77 at the U.S. Open to miss the cut there, though he did beat 2018 Masters low amateur Steward Hagestad 2UP in the semifinals of last year's U.S. Mid-Am to get into this year's Masters. Hagestad has been a monster in amateur events over the last few years, so that's no small feat. Michel will have to bring that version of his game (and probably more) to Augusta.
Abel Gallegos (No. 199): The 17-year-old Latin America Amateur winner will be the most emotionally out of his world of these six golfers (mostly because, you know, he's 17). He won the LAAC earlier in 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic upended golf in the United States, but his experience is sparse. Still, his talent likely surpasses several of the golfers ahead of him. "I have seen a lot of good swings and a lot of good trajectories, and this kid is really good," said his playing partner in the final round of the LAAC, Jose Vega. "He is going to be a superstar and I hope he makes the cut in Augusta."