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PGA Tour rising star Jake Knapp ready to battle nerves at 1st career Masters: ‘All business’

A 20-year-old Jake Knapp played on the iconic Chamber’s Bay Golf Course in Washington for the 2015 U.S. Open – his first career major after qualifying for the tournament as an amateur. 

While the UCLA golfer was excited about competing for a major championship, he was never able to settle down. 

“I wasn’t comfortable at all,” Knapp told Fox News Digital in a recent interview. “I was a college kid who qualified playing 36 holes and going out there seeing everybody, you’re just in full shell shock. The course is super hard and there’s so many people – you’re just nervous from start to finish.”

Knapp wanted to be a professional golfer then, but thought to himself, “I don’t know how I’m going to play in front of this many people. How is this ever going to feel normal?”

Nine years later, heading into his first Masters tournament at the legendary Augusta National Golf Club this week, Knapp couldn’t feel more confident that he could compete with the best in the world. 

“I feel like my preparation’s been good so far. I feel like my game’s in a good place,” Knapp, the rookie who won the 2024 Mexico Open for his first career PGA Tour victory, said. 

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For even the best in the world, it can be unsettling on the first tee at Augusta National during Masters week. Knapp has no doubt he’s going to get nervous throughout the tournament, but it’s different nine years later ahead of his second career major. 

For one, his game has improved to the point where he earned his PGA Tour card last year, and he’s already a winner on Tour – something many golfers can’t say they’ve accomplished. And it hasn’t been a one-and-done for Knapp, as he’s missed just two cuts in nine events and has three top 10 finishes. He finished tied-third in the Farmers Insurance Open before his win in Mexico, and he followed that up with a tied-fourth showing at the Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches. 

His backstory also made rounds, as he worked as a nightclub bouncer for a time before earning his Tour card to provide for his golf dream. The story got old after a while for him, though, as many aspiring pro golfers know the financial burden of chasing the dream. 

“That’s probably something most people don’t realize,” Knapp explained. “It’s in every professional sport for the most part, but the difference is when you’re in minor league baseball or some of these small organizations, or the farm systems, you’re still a part of an organization, so I’m assuming they help you somewhat financially. In golf, you’re 100% on your own.”

Knapp’s smooth tempo in his golf swing has captivated fans, as he effortlessly averages 306.1 yards per drive this season, which is 22nd on Tour. A “no-brainer” move to use Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG) irons and wedges also gives him the right control to make sure he’s scoring to keep himself in contention during these tournaments. 

“I mainly play one wedge and the irons, and the irons were kinda the decision maker for me in who I was going to go with,” Knapp said about working with PXG clubs. “As soon as I did testing with them, it was a no-brainer for me. They fit my eye and they have the look of a blade and the forgiveness of a cavity back. So, it’s the perfect mix for me.”

Knapp has been able to use those clubs on the Augusta National course already, making trips prior to the Masters to get himself acclimated with the course – one he feels his game can work well on. 

Jake Knapp swings club

“It’s a style of golf that I really, really like,” he explained. “It requires you to move the ball, hit off uneven lies. It fits athletes and people who are creative out there, so I’m excited for that. And I think it’s gotten a lot longer over the years, so it doesn’t hurt to hit the ball far.”

Every golfer at Augusta needs laser focus if they want to handle the pressure every shot brings during the Masters, which is why Knapp said he, his girlfriend and his caddie will be in one house this week, while his family and friends will be in another one. 

But knowing he’ll have tons of support as he plays will help the natural nerves that come in a major. 

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“I love them to death, but I kinda want to just be able to go back and do my work and let them talk about everything,” Knapp said about his living arrangements for the week. “I think that’s why it’s that feeling of where I’m comfortable.

“To be honest, all of it kinda seems surreal still, but at the same time it feel very normal.… Obviously, there’s going to be some nerves and excitement and all that, but I think having family and friends around will be nice, and I think just soaking it all in. Going out there and not trying to shy away from how cool everything is and really trying to appreciate the fact I get to be there.”

The drive down Magnolia Lane, the smell of pimento cheese sandwiches, the lush fairways and greens with blooming trees all around. It will be hard for Knapp not to take a step back and appreciate the moment. 

Jake Knapp looks down golf course

But when the starter announces his name at the first tee Thursday, he’s going to try to treat it like every other tournament. 

“I’m not going to go to a golf tournament if I’m not trying to win,” he said. “I don’t think I have a way or a trigger or anything like that that gets me into it. I think I do a really good job of, once tournament week starts, it’s just all business from start to finish.

“Going to go out there, do my preparation and see if I can put myself in contention come the back nine on Sunday.”

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