Preview: Thomas, Fox headline Jones Cup field

Justin Thomas

The nation’s best amateur golfers have a Super Bowl tradition of their own. It’s the Jones Cup, which will be held this weekend at Ocean Forest Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga. The Jones Cup attracts the first elite amateur field of the year to one the toughest courses the players will face:

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Feb. 1-3, Ocean Forest Golf Club, St. Simons Island, Ga.

Notables in the field: Justin Thomas, defending champion and 2012 Haskins Award winner; Steven Fox, 2012 U.S. Amateur champion; Nathan Smith, four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion; Peter Williamson, No. 8 in R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking; Bobby Wyatt, No. 3 in R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking.

The skinny: This event began in 2001 as a preview of that year’s Walker Cup, which also was held at Ocean Forest. The Jones Cup originally was held only in Walker Cup years, but has been conducted annually since 2009. The ties between the tournaments still run deep. The Jones Cup is the first elite amateur event of the year, and serves as an unofficial start to the race for Walker Cup spots. Jim Holtgrieve, the U.S. captain, is expected to attend and scout potential team members. Ten of the 16 players who took part in December’s Walker Cup practice session are in the field. This strong field can expect to be tested at Ocean Forest: the winning score has been at par or higher each of the past four years. Part of that has to do with the winter weather in coastal Georgia. A penal, hazard-laden Ocean Forest layout also is a culprit. Past champions of this event include PGA Tour players Kyle Stanley, Patrick Reed, Nicholas Thompson, Luke List and D.J. Trahan, as well as John Peterson and Justin Thomas. Thomas, who won last year’s event, will tee off in the featured pairing with Steven Fox and Peter Williamson at 10 a.m. Friday; Bobby Wyatt, Michael Miller and Zac Blair, all of whom took part in the Walker Cup practice session, tee off at 10 a.m. off the 10th tee.

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