AUGUSTA, G a . — The game they came up with was called Two Up, Two Down, and when they were kids at Vestavia Country Club, Smylie Kaufman and his friend James Cunningham used to play it constantly.
Often, it ended with the same punch line.
“I can not tell you how many times we said, ‘This one’s to win the Masters!’ when you’re about to beat the other guy,” Cunningham said.
Sunday, Cunningham’s childhood friend has a chance to do just that.
A third-round 3-under par 69 put the former LSU golfer one off the lead going into the final round here at Augusta National Golf Club behind defending Masters champion Jordan Spieth.
The two will be paired on Sunday, teeing off in the final group at 1:45 p.m. CDT. The Masters telecast begins at 1 p.m., with online tournament coverage starting at 9:15 a.m.
Kaufman has quite a following here.
There is Cunningham and a bunch of other childhood friends, wearing matching purple and white-striped shirts with a smiley-faced “Smylie’s Army” logo on the front. They’re staying at a rented house they call The Headquarters, while Kaufman’s family stays in two rented houses nearby.
Of course, Kaufman’s rooting section extends back to Louisiana, where LSU golf coach Chuck Winstead is confident his former player can get the job done Sunday and claim the green jacket.
“To the world this probably is pretty crazy,” Winstead said. “To me it’s not as crazy.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he went out tomorrow and shot 65 and won by three. When he gets it going he’s going to keep going.”
Former LSU golfer David Toms, a 15-time veteran of the Masters, knows Kaufman and his parents well. Pam and Jeff Kaufman also played collegiately at LSU in the early 1980s.
“Obviously he has his short game figured out,” said Toms, who finished sixth here in his debut in 1998. “That’s the key for your first time there.”
Myles Lewis, one of Kaufman’s former LSU teammates, was also in the gallery Saturday.
“It’s surreal thinking one of my buddies could win the green jacket,” Lewis said. “But it’s not knowing his confidence and how he carries himself.”
“He’s got that swagger,” Cunningham said. “It’s like he’s above the pressure. He has not been nervous this whole time.”
Reed battles the wind
Former University High golfer Patrick Reed is tied for 34th at 8-over going into the final round following a Saturday 75 played through some of the day’s toughest winds.
Reed said it blew so hard at times it changed the break he played on putts. The wind also crossed him up, he said, and sent him launching his approach shot on the par-4 18th about 15 yards over the green.
“I almost ended up hitting people it flew so far,” Reed said.
Horschel blown away
Former Zurich Classic of New Orleans champion Billy Horschel was the victim of tough conditions and a tough rule when wind blew his ball into the pond fronting the 15th green.
Horschel had a birdie putt, but after marking his ball a gust pushed it off the green. He eventually made bogey and is tied for 16th at 4-over.
“Once it’s in play, if it starts rolling, you have to play it from where it finishes,” Horschel said. “I didn’t have my scuba gear to play it from the water.”
Watson early out
Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson was the first golfer off Saturday because an odd number of players (57) made the cut.
Watson, playing with Augusta National member Jeff Knox as a non-competitive marker, shot 76 and is at 10-over going into Sunday.
Watson’s caddy is Lafayette native Ted Scott.