That included CBS sports anchor Jim Nantz, who to American viewers is as synonymous with Masters as azaleas and pimento cheese sandwiches.
Nantz invited Alabama’s Kaufman into the interview studio within Butler’s Cabin and got straight down to the nitty-gritty, that the Masters rookie with more than US$2 million in prize money this season is still living with his parents.
The golfer, whose grandfather Alan Kaufman was once golf coach at University of Alabama-Birmingham, when Graeme McDowell was one of his charges (missed that one, Jim), agreed that was true and said: “I’m in the market (for a house), just really indecisive”.
Nantz was not done. He wanted to know what car Kaufman drove, learning the young man was keeping it real in 2008 Nissan.
“Drives nice,” he added.
The real pay off came as Nantz thanked Kaufman for the interview, the amiable Smylie returning the compliment and sounding like he called the CBS announcer “Jay”.
Playing alongside Spieth yesterday in the tournament’s final pairing will have given Kaufman an even bigger profile for a kid who learned how to play Augusta National by playing the Tiger Woods EA computer game.
And while a generation of golfers grew up watching Tiger, the next one may well be followers of Smylie, once they get to know how he got the name in the first place. Turns out it is not a nickname but his given moniker, named for Smylie Gebhart, a family member who was an American football player for his college, Georgia Tech in 1972 but severed a spinal cord in 1980, leaving him a quadriplegic.
Smylie Kaufman came into the world 11 years later and followed his parents into Louisiana State University and his father onto their renowned golf team.
He was a qualifier for the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst but missed the cut by four strokes. A pro since that season, he earned his Masters invitation thanks to a final-round 61 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last October, his wonder round coming early in the day but good enough to seal a maiden PGA Tour win, collect the $1.1m pay cheque and earn his ticket to Augusta National where he has quickly been getting comfortable.
“The golf course fits my eye,” Kaufman said. “I’m not trying to overlook the situation. I know what’s going on. I know it’s the Masters. I know how important it is.
“But I’m just going to go out there and just do my best. I think that’s all I can do, and just not try to force it and just try to have some fun.”