PALM HARBOR, FLA. (AP) - Scott Brown feels as if he grew up at Augusta National.
He stayed with his grandfather, whose house was about a half-mile away from one of the main gates to the home of the Masters. They had season badges, and Brown for years camped out behind the 16th green. He missed out on the U-turn chip by Tiger Woods that hung on the lip for a second and dropped in 2005.
“That was the first year I didn’t go,” he said. “I was old enough to realize those galleries were so big that I couldn’t see anything.”
Then again, that was the first year Brown was invited to play Augusta National, one week before the 2005 Masters.
But he’s not.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Brown said Tuesday. “If I play well, that gets me in what I want to get in. It’s a freedom thing for me. Job security is a big deal.”
Brown was hoping to get into a playoff Sunday in the Puerto Rico Open when he was one shot behind Fabian Gomez playing the par-5 18th, with Gomez in the fairway. What happened next is still hard for him to believe. Gomez hit into an awkward spot in the bunker, flew over the green into another bunker and made bogey. Brown laced a 3-iron to just short of the green, chipped up to 4 feet and made the birdie putt to win.
Augusta National doesn’t give invitations to winners of tour events held the same week as a major or World Golf Championship.
Playing in the Masters is still his dream. His job is reality.
Brown was 148th on the money list a year ago in his first season on tour. With a short season, he figured he would be playing on the Web.com Tour this year, except that he already was in Chile for a Web.com event and Puerto Rico was on the way home.
Even playing the final hole, he felt he had nothing to lose. Second place wouldn’t offer enough FedEx Cup points to qualify for the playoffs.
Now, his year has taken a dramatic change.
He is playing this week at the Tampa Bay Championship, next week at Bay Hill and the week after the Masters at Hilton Head. He’s also in The Players Championship in May and makes his major debut _ unless he qualifies for the U.S. Open _ at the PGA Championship in August.
“It’s a relief more than anything, knowing you can win out here,” Brown said.