That gentleman above is Jeff Knox. No matter what you're doing this weekend, Jeff's got one up on you.
Knox is the official Augusta "marker," a tournament representative who plays in the event that an odd number of players make the cut. Many other tournaments simply send that odd man out on his own, but at Augusta, you're always under the care of the club, even out on the course.
This year, Rory McIlroy was the 51st and final player to make the cut, meaning that Knox got to tee it up Saturday morning with a two-time major champion. Not a bad way to spend a day.
The purpose of a marker is twofold: to keep the pro's scorecard and to help with the pace of play. Plus, it can get lonely out there on a golf course all by yourself; why not have someone along to pass the time?
Knox is no chump on the course; no, that would not do at Augusta. He holds the course record at Augusta with a 61, a score he achieved in 2002. (It should be noted that he played from the member tees; from the pro tees, his best is a 69.) Although Knox clearly had skills as a golfer, he instead pursued a career in business, and as executive director of Augusta's Knox Foundation has distributed millions in gifts to local universities and children's hospitals. He still plays outside Augusta, however, and won 2008 and 2009 amateur championships in Georgia.
Throughout his career as a marker, Knox has had the opportunity to play many of the best in the game. A Guardian article last year documented some of the best stories:
• Knox first played in 2003, teeing it up against Craig Stadler and beating him both times.
• Knox once outrdrove Miguel Angel Jimenez on both the first and tenth tees, despite Jimenez's joking admonition not to do so.
• In 2006, Knox played with Sergio Garcia, and according to rumor, the two made the round interesting with a little wager. Knox won by a stroke and Garcia reputedly did not shake hands with him afterward, so you can guess how that turned out.
Jim Furyk has said Knox could "beat half the field who made the cut." His record against his partners over the last decade of weekend rounds is about even, though it must be remembered that Knox is not playing with the pressure of a paycheck.
“I’ve played in a good bit of competition, of course, but nothing like this,” Knox said in 2012. “The first couple of holes is a little nerve-racking. The first shot on No. 1, definitely. You just want to elevate the ball, that’s my goal. Get it off the tee.”
So how did it go this year? Spectacularly well. Knox beat McIlroy by a shot, firing a 2-under 70 from the exact same tees. Augusta National did not make Knox available for comment, but Rory was happy to speak on his behalf.
"I thought he was going to be nice and three-putt the last and we would have a half, but he beat me by one," McIlroy said. "He obviously knows this place so well and gets it around. I don't think I've ever seen anyone putt the greens as well as he does around here. He was really impressive. I was thinking of maybe getting him to read a few of my putts out there."
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