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The curiosity of Jeff Knox grows, but so does the legend

April 8, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jeff Knox is the most popular unknown figure at the Masters.

He doesn’t have a bulky tour bag like professionals who play for a living—his has a stand—but he’s the only one who wears a cape. In fact, he’s more superhero than human. The director of the Knox Foundation nonprofit by day and a Masters marker on the first weekend in April.

You probably know the Knox story by now, or at least are familiar with it. Knox, 54, is the Augusta National Golf Club member summoned to tee it up if an odd number of players make the cut, as was the case on Saturday when he was paired with Jason Day, the third-ranked player in the world. Knox has won the Georgia Mid-Amateur three times, and he holds the Augusta National course record from the member tees, with a 61. He has unofficially beaten several Tour pros in his Masters appearances, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia among them, and he was the subject of this Sports Illustrated feature in 2016.

He knows Augusta so well, pros ask him for advice. But who is he?

Some patrons are vaguely familiar.

“Dude, this guy has beaten Rory McIlroy,” one 20-something said to his pal near the 1st tee on Saturday.

Others are not so sure.

“I have no clue, but he’s someone who looks like he’s been there before,” one patron noted.

One youngster had no idea.

“I think it’s Tom Watson,” he told his dad.

What we do know is that Knox can play, and those who watch him find that out relatively quickly. His unofficial record against other pros entering this year is believed to be 6-10-1. (In the SI profile, Gary Van Sickle had it at 6-8-1 before 2016, but reports from last year have Bubba Watson and Kevin Na beating Knox.) On Saturday morning, Knox was unofficially three over on the front to Day’s even-par 36. Although Knox picked up close putts on the 2nd and 7th, we awarded him gimmes for the sake of scoring purposes. Besides, he’s not supposed to slow down play. His job is to keep up the pace, record his partner’s score and stay out of the way. You’ll have to take our word for it. Augusta National doesn’t make Knox available for interviews.

Knox’s front-side 39 would have been better if he hadn’t missed a couple of putts inside 10 feet, but we won’t call it nerves. He doesn’t get nervous. Right?

“Oh, hell no,” said one Augusta National member, sitting in the grandstands on the 4th tee.

Of course Knox isn’t nervous. Your backyard is littered with kids’ toys and too many weeds. His backyard is Augusta National Golf Club.

Day widened the gap with four birdies on the back nine for a three-under 69. Knox, unofficially, shot 77, pushing his record to 6-11-1, but he wasn’t without highlights. Near the green on the par-3 6th, it was impossible to tell who was hitting first from the elevated tee. When Day stuck his approach to within eight inches, the crowd erupted. One 40-something gentleman wasn’t sure whose ball it was, but his buddy interrupted him.

“You think that wasn’t Jason Day?” he said matter-of-factly in a thick Southern drawl.

Seconds later, another ball thumped on the green. It nestled to about 10 feet, pin high. The crowd roared again. The man looked back at his friend.

“But whoever that is is a damn good amateur.”