USA leads by eight at rain-shortened event

Chris Williams watches his tee shot at No. 12 during the Round of 64 at the 112th U. S. Amateur Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club. Williams advanced to the Round of 32 defeating Peter Williamson.

ANTALYA, Turkey – Jim Vernon has the easiest job at the World Amateur Team Championship. He might as well wear an armband that reads “observer” as he walks the fairways.

The U.S. leads the World Amateur Team Championship by eight shots over defending champion France after seven holes of the third round in the weather affected championship. The U.S. sits at 24-under-par, with just 11 holes to complete when play resumes on Sunday morning. Mexico is third on 15-under-par with Korea on 13-under.

With the tournament reduced to 54 holes because of poor weather, all Vernon needs to do is rely on another 11 solid holes from the trio of Chris Williams, Justin Thomas and Steven Fox to bring home the Eisenhower Trophy for the first time since 2004.

And Vernon doesn’t even have to give his players advice on the golf course.

World No. 1 Williams is joint leading individually at 14-under-par with Mexico’s Sebastian Vazquez. Germany’s Moritz Lampert is third on 11-under, while Texas Christian University Julien Brun is fourth. The French player is 10-under.

Thomas is fifth at 8-under, while Fox is in joint 12th at 4-under.

As for Vernon, while he’s working hard behind the scenes, he hasn’t had to tell any of his players what to do on the golf course. All he has to do is watch and enjoy.

“Not once,” Vernon said when asked how many times he had given his players advice over the first two rounds. “They are much better golfers than I am. They’ve got it figured out.”

As for what he planned to say to them heading into the third and final round, his message was simple. “Keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll stay out of the way. I’ve got quite a team. They’re good golfers, good guys, and it’s a joy to be around them.”

It’s certainly been a joy to be around Williams this week. He’s living up to his No. 1 status on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He hasn’t made many mistakes over 43 holes. In fact, he’s only made three. He has just three bogeys, along with an eagle and 15 birdies.

“I was playing pretty well coming in here, so I arrived with high expectations,” Williams said. “Everything is going my way this week. I’m hitting fairways and greens, I’m not making a lot of mistakes and rolling in putts when I have to.”

U.S. Amateur champion Fox credited his second round 68 to his determination to be part of the party. With only two scores counting in this format, he didn’t contribute to the team score on day one.

“I played pretty conservatively the first round, but 71 doesn’t cut it when Chris and Justin are throwing up 64s and 67s,” Fox said. “I played a little bit more aggressively today. I hit driver a lot of times and it paid off. I also putted well.”

The U.S.’s 266, 36 hole total set a record for lowest 36-hole total in Eisenhower Trophy history, breaking the previous record of 268 set by the USA in 2004.

Talking of breaking records, seems next week’s $5.2 million Turkish Airlines World Golf Final is dead set on smashing financial records. The eight competitors don’t have to even break sweat to come away with wads of greenbacks.

Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Charl Schwartzel, Hunter Mahan, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar will compete for a first place prize of $1.5 million, with $1 million for the runner-up. The seventh and eighth placed players receive $300,000 each. Fifth and sixth is worth $450,000 per man, while third and fourth place nets $600,000 apiece.

Besides the prize money, it might be the richest Pro-Am in history. It’s reportedly $20,000 per Pro-Am place, $60,000 per team, to play with either McIlroy, Schwartzel, Mahan, Rose, Westwood, Simpson or Kuchar. It reportedly jumps to $100,000 a man, $300,000 per team, to play with Tiger.

And the $720,000 the lucky, ahem stinking rich, 24 amateurs are throwing into the pot only gets them 9 holes.

So while next week is all about greed, at least this week the amateurs can revel in the game’s Corinthian spirit. There won’t be much of it around when Tiger, Rory and the boys come to town.

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