Smylie Kaufman: Masters First-Timer Tees Off With Jordan Spieth In Final Pairing, Learned Augusta Via Tiger Woods’ Video Game

Smylie Kaufman, 24, is playing in his first Masters tournament this year, and remarkably, he’ll tee off on Sunday alongside Jordan Spieth in the tournament’s final pairing.

At one stroke behind Spieth at 2 under par, Kaufman has an even more remarkable tale to tell — he allegedly learned to play Augusta National by playing the course on the Tiger Woods video game.

Like many others of his generation that includes Spieth and Rory McIlroy, Kaufman is young, smart, passionate, disciplined, and fearless when it comes to taking on a course, even one as difficult and renowned as Augusta National.

And like many other players his age, Kaufman idealizes Tiger, but does not let the stars in his eyes prevent him from taking on the former No. 1 player with gusto.

According to Smylie’s dad, Jeff Kaufman, the young player and his contemporaries in the world of golf have been inspired by Woods, but do not fear him.

“They all grew up watching Tiger. He was the catalyst for all of this.”

Of course, one of the first questions surrounding the young golfer is the origin of his name. According to Devil Ball Golf, Kaufman is named for Smylie Gebhart, a family relation who was an All-American football player for Georgia Tech in 1972. Gebhart suffered a severed spinal cord in 1980, and was left a quadriplegic.

Jeff Kaufman said his son was named after Gebhart because of all the athlete represented.

“He was a handsome guy, an amazing athlete, the kind of guy you’d like your daughter to marry.”

Smylie’s career is as one would expect of a man ready to take on Jordan Spieth for the coveted green Masters jacket. He played college golf with LSU, winning a silver medal at the 2014 SEC championship his senior year. He qualified for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, but missed the cut by four strokes and turned pro in 2014.

His luck held out when he produced a “miracle round of golf” and finished with a 61 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October, 2015. He won that tournament, and perhaps more importantly, a spot at the Masters.

Despite the fact that Jordan Spieth is two years his junior, the Masters 2015 champion has become a mentor of sorts to Smylie, said Jeff Kaufman.

“We learned a lot from Jordan. We’ve kept things calm this week. [Smylie’s] played only nine-hole practice rounds in preparation. And he’s come over to our house for dinner every night.”

Like other young players that have preceded Smylie at the prestigious tournament, the young golfer has a strong cheering section rooting him on — although they do seem to be really enjoying the perks of Augusta.

“I’ve got my friends that are here that are taking advantage of the great prices Augusta offers on the beer. So I’ve got them kind of making the crowds [fired up], or making me get pumped up after I make some birdies.”

As the young golfer prepares to tee off alongside Jordan on Sunday, Smylie has said he just wants to keep things in perspective.

“The golf course fits my eye. I’m not trying to overlook the situation. I know what’s going on. I know it’s the Masters. I know how important it is. But I’m just going to go out there and just do my best. I think that’s all I can do tomorrow, and just not try to force it and just try to have some fun.”

[Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images]

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