Augusta, Ga .— Course knowledge is supposed to be vital at Augusta National. That’s why older players like Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer so often play well at the Masters, and why Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson so often seem revived by the tournament.
Abraham Ancer doesn’t have much course knowledge. He is playing in his first Masters, and he enters the final round at 12 under, tied for second and playing in the final group Sunday with Dustin Johnson and Sungjae Im.
Saturday, he shot a 69 for his third straight round under 70, then joked his way through an interview.
Asked to describe his home course in Reynoso, Mexico, Ancer said: “It’s just like this.”
Then he laughed and said, “No, I mean, nothing like this. But it’s a super special place. That’s where I learned how to play the game. I love going back there. Actually, I think it’s a great layout. It’s just there’s really not enough members or money to keep it up. And it’s very hot, so it’s tough. But the food is incredible.”
Last Sunday, Ancer, 29, spent time he could have spent practicing at Augusta National sitting in the plush clubhouse, watching countryman Carlos Ortiz win the Vivent Houston Open, which qualifies Ortiz for the 2021 Masters.
Ancer’s father moved him from Reynoso to McAllen, Texas, which is right across the border, so Ancer could attend high school in the United States. Ancer received one scholarship offer — to Odessa Junior College in West Texas.
He played well enough to attract the attention of Oklahoma. As a professional he has two victories — one on the Korn Ferry Tour and one on the PGA Australasia.
Strangely, he doesn’t seem intimidated by Augusta National. In his third round, he reacted to a double bogey on the 13th hole by birdieing 15 and 16 to move into a three-way tie for second.
Sunday, he’ll play alongside Johnson, who leads by four shots, and Im, with whom Ancer has played all over the world. He played in the same group as Australian Cameron Smith on Saturday. Ancer played on a Presidents Cup team with both.
“Although we don’t really speak the same language, we get along well,” Ancer said. “Playing with Im will be fun.”
Asked if finishing his second round and playing the third round on the same day was tiring, Ancer said, “Look at me!”
He does look fit. His positive attitude also crosses borders.
“I play the game for the two countries I love,” he has said. “This game has no borders.”
Ancer hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens on Saturday.
When you hit it that straight, the location and prestige of the golf course doesn’t matter much.