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Journeyman MacKenzie on fire but misses Masters' dream
By all accounts, 39-year-old PGA Tour journeyman Will MacKenzie’s season started off with a bang, even if it doesn’t include a trip to Augusta this week.
This is due in great part to the former golf prodigy’s top-notch short game and putting. But according to The New York Times, MacKenzie decided to skip one of his closest chances yet to play in his paragon Major, the Masters, last week — after just falling short days before in a waiting-game heart breaker tourney.
Don’t feel too bad, though. In 13 events, MacKenzie has five top-10’s, including a close tie for second at the Valero Texas Open that left him just short of going to the year’s first Major.
And he has still earned nearly $1.8 million, which is up over his previous personal best by more than $500,000 six years ago, and has jumped his standing all the way to No. 11 in the latest FedEx Cup rankings with 880 points.
MacKenzie is focused and structured for this PGA season, so much so he skipped a shot at the Masters.
But… if he had beaten Steven Bowditch in San Antonio, it would have punched MacKenzie’s ticket to the Masters. Instead, MacKenzie lost in the clubhouse to the 30-year-old Bowditch by a stroke. And now it’s Bowditch who is heading to Georgia.
“It’s a dream of mine, to play in the Masters, sure,” MacKenzie told The Times from his home in Jupiter, Fla. “But I guess it’s a dream that’s going to have to wait at least a year.”
Then, MacKenzie opted out of the Houston Open last week, where a big win also would have sent him to the Masters.
“It had been my plan all along to take this week off,” he told the Times, “but I didn’t know I’d have come so close to getting into the Masters, and my hand is somewhat hot.
“But I’m sticking to my plan, and I’ve got huge weeks of golf coming up and I’m going to prepare for those.”
The PGA’s wraparound schedule has definitely been beneficial, allowing the renowned free spirit and adventurer, who is an accomplished surfer, snowboarder and kayaker, to maintain his momentum and confidence.
“I continued my strong play from the end of last season and there was no turnaround in time, so I was really ready to play,” MacKenzie told 2nd Swing Golf Blog, adding that he plans on playing in about 25 events this year and is much for focused on golf.
Last September, MacKenzie re-secured his PGA Tour card — after losing it after the 2011 season — with a second-place finish at the Web.com’s Chiquita Classic in North Carolina, losing on the first hole of a playoff with Andrew Svoboda.
The strong end, however, served to take the sting out of some lingering emotions from a rare mental lapse the week before at the Hotel Fitness Championship in Indiana.
“I missed the cut by a shot because I thought I had a different score,” MacKenzie said. “I missed a tap in which would have made me make the cut. That is so frustrating.”
On the road again
The constant travel of a Tour pro does weigh heavily on MacKenzie’s mind each season, particularly so with no real break in the schedule nowadays. But, he said he understands that being away from family for long stretches at a time goes hand-in-hand with being any sort of pro athlete.
“Of course, it’s never easy to leave the loved ones back at home,” he said. “Missing birthday parties for the boys (Maverick and Nash) isn’t a good feeling. Financially, this is taxing; mentally, sometimes lonely, but professionally it is really rewarding.”
But, the grind of a PGA Tour season is blunted in many ways due to some good buddies like James Driscoll and Steve Marino.
“We all go through ups and downs together,” MacKenzie said, “but we are friends and encourage each other to remember good times are usually around the corner. We need each other to stay positive.”
Many are very familiar with MacKenzie’s love of reggae, but perhaps less well known — at least to those off the course — is his passion for bird watching.
“I love seeing varieties of rare birds and am a great lover of wildlife,” MacKenzie said. “I’m sure all the guys on Tour know this because I’m always spacing out on the course watching birds.”
Big things to come?
MacKenzie said he already sees 2014 as a success, but is certainly open to possibilities.
Perhaps a run at a Ryder Cup spot is in the cards? MacKenzie currently sits in 34th place on the Ryder Cup list, but continued solid play could warrant a look as one of U.S. Capt. Tom Watson’s three own picks.
“That would just be the icing on the cake,” MacKenzie said. “I’m taking it a day at a time and hoping this good form will continue.”
As for the Masters, MacKenzie said he isn’t done chasing that dream. But he’s sticking to his plan to make the absolute most of the 2014 season, like doing his absolute best and aiming for the US Open, British Open and PGA Championship, the last of which he did play in once and finished tied for 57th.
“I’ve got a chance to play in other Majors, and even though Augusta would be my favorite, I’m going to have to try to get into it next year somehow,” MacKenzie told The Times.