Scobie holds off McNealy in U.S. Junior quarterfinals

Matthew Scobie ousted Matthew McNealy in 20 holes.

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STRATHAM, N.H. – For the first four days of the 2012 U.S. Junior Amateur, Matthew Scobie carried his own bag.

“Being in control of my own game is the type of player I am,” Scobie said. “Internal, doing my own thing out there.”

But blisters forced Scobie, of Ajax, Ontario, to pick up a local caddie for his quarterfinal match against Maverick McNealy.

“My parents and my blisters won that decision,” said Scobie, who would end up with Brian Kelley on his bag.

The decision ended up working out. With a little weight off his feet and a knowledgeable looper around the greens, Scobie outlasted McNealy in 20 holes to advance to Friday afternoon’s semifinals at the Golf Club of New England.

Next up for Scobie comes a semifinal matchup with Jim Liu, who, coincidentally, has Kelley’s brother, Neil, on his bag.

Scobie was 4 up through eight holes, but McNealy, who had earned a reputation for big comebacks all week, mounted yet another rally. He won the next three holes, including Nos. 9 and 10 with birdies, to pull within one.

Then after Scobie rebuilt his lead to 3 up with four holes to play, McNealy fought right back. He stuck his approach shots to within two feet on Nos. 15 and 16, winning both holes. He also stuck his second shot out of the bunker to about a foot on the par-3 17th.

“My uncle Bobby, who’s caddying for me, just told me to have fun, see what you can do” McNealy said.

Then, after Scobie found some thick fescue with his tee shot on No. 18, McNealy calmly two-putted for the hole.

“You can’t let up at all with the way he was striking it,” Scobie said. “It was a battle out there.”

After the two halved the first playoff hole – the par-4 first – McNealy, who had been near-perfect off the tee for much of the latter half of the match, drove it left into the woods on the par-4 second hole. Scobie safely found the fairway.

“This course is all about placement off the tee and six rounds later, I definitely know my spots and where to put the ball,” Scobie said.

After a drop, McNealy missed right of the green and after just missing from the rough to stay alive, Scobie chipped from just off the fringe to about a foot. McNealy then removed his hat and shook hands with Scobie, conceding defeat.

“If you would’ve told me [at the beginning] that I’d be all square going back to one, I would’ve been fine with it,” Scobie said. “How I got there maybe wasn’t the best road, but I had the mindset going in that it’s match play, no lead is safe until you win and that’s really what I tried to do is stay in my game.”

• • •

LIU’s LOCKED IN: Jim Liu can become just the third player in history to win two U.S. Junior titles – Tiger Woods, who won three in a row, and Jordan Spieth are the others. And after Liu advanced to the semifinals with a 3-and-2 victory over Nicolo Galletti, a second trophy is looking like a likely possibility with just two rounds remaining.

Liu went 1 up after a birdie on the 524-yard, par-5 third hole. He stretched his lead to three on the 148-yard, par-3 sixth and never led by fewer than two after that.

Even more impressive, the Stanford commitment and 2010 champion never made a bogey.

• • •

THE OTHER SEMIFINAL: The other semifinal matchup involves Nicolas Echavarria and Andy Shim.

Echavarria, who has his brother, Andres, on the bag, has looked as comfortable as any player this week. That didn’t change Friday morning. As he was walking off the ninth green, after just missing a birdie putt that would have given him a 3-up advantage, he tossed a ball to a kid watching nearby.

His personality has shown all week in Stratham and he’s remained loose on the course, which helped him out late in his quarterfinal victory over Branson Davis. Echavarria was 2 up with three to play before Davis halved the match going into No. 18.

And after Davis made a mess of the hole – he made double after driving right into the hazard – Echavarria, who knew bogey would win the match, chipped his third shot onto the green and two-putted for the victory.

Shim pulled away in his match against Joo-Young Lee, who has battled mononucleosis all week, to win 4 and 2. Shim didn’t take the lead until No. 10, but thanks to a couple huge pars on Nos. 12 and 13, he was able to end his match on the 16th green, where he carded a birdie.

• • •

2012 U.S. Junior Amateur quarterfinal results

  • Jim Liu def. Nicolo Galletti, 3 and 2
  • Matthew Scobie def. Maverick McNealy, 20 holes
  • Nicolas Echavarria def. Branson Davis, 1 up
  • Andy Shim def. Joo-Young Lee, 4 and 2
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