5 Things: UCLA’s Shah holds lead at Jones Cup
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Five things you need to know from the second round of the Jones Cup, one of the nation’s premier amateur events:
1. CONSOLATION PRIZE: Missing a trip to Hawaii is never fun. Winning one of the country’s premier amateur events is a good consolation, though.
Manav Shah holds the 36-hole lead at the Jones Cup, one day after his UCLA teammates wrapped up the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawaii. Shah, who shot 71-71 in the Jones Cup’s first two rounds, is redshirting this season after transferring from the University of San Diego. He’ll start the final round three shots ahead of LSU freshman Curtis Thompson (70-75).
Shah made three birdies after a double bogey on his first hole Saturday. He hit a wedge fat into the lake fronting the first green at Ocean Forest, but birdied the next hole after hitting 8-iron to 15 feet.
“I just tried to not let it get to me,” he said. “I forgot about it right after I hit it.”
Shah hasn’t played an individual tournament since the summer. He teamed with Bhavik Patel, a semifinalist at the 2009 U.S. Amateur, in November to win the Southern California Four-Ball.
“It’s kind of like riding a bike,” Shah said of tournament golf. “I’m back to where I want to be.”
Shah was runner-up to teammate Patrick Cantlay at both the 2011 NCAA West Regional and Southern California Amateur.
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2. BACK-TO-BACK?: Thompson is seeking his second consecutive amateur victory -- he won the Dixie Amateur in December -- and is trying to be the second straight LSU player to win this event. John Peterson won in 2011 before winning the NCAA Championship.
Thompson was the Jones Cup’s first-round leader after shooting 70, but was five shots higher in Saturday’s easier conditions. Players confronted calm conditions Saturday after facing wind gusts up to 30 mph the previous day.
“I set different expectations,” Thompson said. “Big mistake at the beginning of the day. I should’ve just gone out and played just like I did yesterday. I pushed myself too hard, hit some putts too hard and fired at pins that I wasn’t supposed to. Just dumb.”
Both Thompson and Peterson had success at Ocean Forest the week after making a swing change with LSU head coach Chuck Winstead, who doubles as swing coach for both players. Thompson said he’s been working on swinging to the left through impact, which has helped him keep the ball in play.
If Thompson were to win, he’d be included in the (early, early) conversation about the 2013 Walker Cup team. His older brother, Nicholas, played on the 2005 team. His younger sister, Lexi, was on the 2010 Curtis Cup team. Curtis Thompson, a freshman at LSU, is No. 65 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. He also was medalist at the 2010 U.S. Junior.
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3. TEST RUN: The Jones Cup is the first tournament of the year for many players. It’s Kevin Phelan’s second tournament this week. Phelan played Monday and Tuesday in the Jacksonville Invitational at TPC Sawgrass. Playing the Pete Dye-designed course was good preparation for Ocean Forest. Both courses have plenty of trouble awaiting off-line shots.
“I think you have to play them very similarly,” said Phelan, who is in third place at the Jones Cup, four shots off the lead. “They’re both tough courses, demanding off the tee and around the greens. I think playing there was a good warm-up for here. You just plod your way around and not try to make too many mistakes.”
Phelan (74-72) will start the final round tied with Michael Hebert (73-73) and Bobby Wyatt (74-72). Wyatt was 3 under on the front nine, but hit his tee shot in the hazard on the par-3 17th for the second consecutive day. He has bad memories of that hole, having five-putted it last year while in contention.
Phelan finished 11th at the Jacksonville Invitational after rounds of 72-78-73 at TPC Sawgrass’ Players Stadium Course. He played a practice round at Ocean Forest on Wednesday, then returned to Jacksonville for a midterm Thursday in abnormal psychology. The first round was Friday.
“A lot of driving, but I enjoy coming up here and playing this course,” Phelan said. “It’s unreal.”
Phelan’s round included a 60-foot par putt on No. 11 after hitting his tee shot into a hazard.
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4. ON THE REBOUND: Matt Nagy’s second-round 69, a 10-shot improvement over the previous day, was Saturday’s low round and kept him in contention. He’s at 4-over 148, six shots behind Shah.
“You’re always going to have one (bad round),” Nagy said. “Yesterday’s 79, as bad as I hit it, and as bad as I played, wasn’t that bad.”
Nagy holed a punch 6-iron on Saturday from 166 yards on the par-4 13th hole.
“It landed right beside the hole, and we didn’t know if it went in or (over the green),” Nagy said. “It was either going to be a 6 or a 2, so I’m happy it went in.”
Nagy found misfortune later in his round. He made double bogey on No. 7, his third-to-last hole, after pushing his tee shot into bushes and losing the ball. The double bogey was his only over-par hole of the round. He responded with consecutive birdies, hitting pitching wedge to 10 feet on the next hole and holing a chip shot on the par-3 ninth.
Saturday’s easier conditions made for some drastic differences in scores. Nagy’s 10-shot improvement wasn’t the largest of the day. That honor belonged to Lee Bedford, who shot 85-70.
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5. STAR STRUGGLES: The Jones Cup’s premier pairing of U.S. Walker Cup teammates Blayne Barber and Kelly Kraft, as well as France’s Gary Stal, struggled during the first two rounds. Kraft, who played practice rounds at Augusta National earlier this week and carried a stand bag from the course, shot consecutive 78s and is in 43rd place. Stal, one of Europe’s top amateurs, is in 22nd after rounds of 76-75. Barber shot 71 Saturday but is in 15th after a first-round 79.