Master the Course

Three Key Takeaways From Jake Knapp and PGA Coach John Ortega's Masters Prep

By Adam Stanley
Published on

PGA TOUR winner Jake Knapp has worked with John Ortega, the PGA of America Golf Professional at Costa Mesa Country Club in California, since he was just eight years old.
That swing that took social media by storm earlier this year as Knapp captured the Mexico Open at Vidanta – long, powerful, elegant – was constructed by Ortega. The duo has had a few ups and downs, but as the 29-year-old visits Augusta National Golf Club for his first Masters, there Ortega will be as his PGA Coach. How could he not be?
“I never had any kids,” Ortega says, “but he and his brother Ryan are like my kids.
“I’m no schlub when it comes to teaching the swing. I’ve been doing it for 40 years. I’ll stay in the wings (at Augusta) and make sure everything looks like it should. The swing is insane. It’s a joke. It’s just so good already.”
Oretga (middle) with Jake Knapp (right) and his brother Ryan.
Oretga (middle) with Jake Knapp (right) and his brother Ryan.
Knapp’s story has been well-told. He won multiple times on PGA TOUR Canada but struggled in his first attempt to gain a PGA TOUR card via the Korn Ferry Tour. He went all the way back down golf’s ladder to the start, and even worked as a bouncer at a restaurant-turned-nightclub back home for a stretch so he could play and practice during the day and make some extra money at night.
Knapp has had a break-out season in 2024, finishing tied for third at the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks prior to winning in Mexico. He backed that up with a tie for fourth the next week at the Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches.
Alas, Masters week will mark a special one for Knapp and his team, including Ortega and his family.
Jake Knapp won the Mexico Open at Vidanta earlier this spring, with help from longtime coach Ortega.
Jake Knapp won the Mexico Open at Vidanta earlier this spring, with help from longtime coach Ortega.
“All I can think about is the Masters,” Knapp said in Palm Beach. “Between that place and Pebble Beach, I’ve always said I have no interest in playing the golf course or going there unless I’m playing.
“I’ve been in this game a long time, so the money [from his win in Mexico] side is great but getting into the Masters and the PGA Championship and things like that mean a lot more to me than what the winner’s check was.”
Ortega says Knapp has played four practice rounds at Augusta National already and arrived on site on Saturday. He and Knapp have worked on a strategy for certain holes so when he arrives he can get to the grounds Saturday and use the facility for “whatever extent” he is allowed. Sunday he’ll do chipping and putting.
Ortega has known Knapp for years, and is excited to see him take on Augusta National.
Ortega has known Knapp for years, and is excited to see him take on Augusta National.
“I’ll do as much snake-charming and suggesting as I can,” Ortega says with a smile. “I try to get him into the right frame of mind and get his chipping and putting right.
“I consider myself more of a spiritual guide.”
Knapp said after his win in Mexico that stepping on the grounds of Augusta National is going to be “surreal,” but now the week is upon him. Knapp has had to prepare for a golf course that he knows of but hasn’t competed on before.
And even though we can’t all tee it up at Augusta National, there may be some fresh venues where golfers across the U.S. are competing on this summer – whether it’s a top-tier event or a fun championship alongside some friends.
Ortega has three tips for golfers who, like Knapp, are set to tee it up at a non-familiar facility and are looking for their own success:
A little research goes a long way
“For the most part, look at the places (on the course) you don’t want to miss it. Hit it to the spots that are more prudent. If you’re not sure of the lines you can take aggressively, be a bit more prudent and be aware of the high side and the low side of the green – you want to miss it on the low side, so when you’re chipping you’re chipping uphill and not short-siding yourself on hard chips.”
Know your miss
“Know what your pre-disposed miss is and minimize the impact of that miss. If there is water left and the pin is cut left, you better not be aiming anywhere near the flagstick. Depending on your skill level you can move your (aiming) spot closer to the hole. You have to know about your miss and how much it’s expressing itself on any particular day either through the round or during the warmup.”
Short game success
“Before you play, practice your chipping and putting a ton because you’re going to be scrambling and you’re going to need to be making par putts or take advantage of birdies when you happen to hit it close. In your warm-up, hit a lot of drives and see which way it’s going so you know what to expect. Know the safety so you can put it in play. And then work on your chipping and putting because you’re going to be doing a lot of it. If you can get up and down, that’d be the best advice I could give.”