NORMAN, Okla. – Rickie Fowler is No. 2 in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com Amateur Rankings and No. 1 among American players.
Nick Taylor holds the No. 4 ranking and is No. 1 among Canadians.
Both have proven worthy of their status through three days at the 84th U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at the sun-baked Jimmie Austin OU Golf Course.
Taylor, of Abbotsford, British Columbia, was the qualifying medalist while Fowler, of Murrieta, Calif., tied for second in the 36-hole stroke play portion of the event.
Both first-team All-America selections this past season followed on Wednesday – the third consecutive triple-digit temperature day – with impressive wins in the opening round of the 64-player match play bracket.
Taylor, who will be a senior at Washington, rolled past Craig Cyr of Concord, N.H., 6 and 4, while Fowler, who finished two years at Oklahoma State and plans to turn pro following the Walker Cup in September, eased past James Erkenbeck of San Diego, Calif.
“I didn’t hit it close a lot today, but I was able to make a few birdies when I had to,” said Taylor, who had four wins in the 2008-09 college season. “We went back and forth the first eight holes and then I was able to pull away.”
Cyr won the first hole with a par, but Taylor came back and won Nos. 2 and 3 with birdies and No. 4 with par to go 2 up. Cyr won the fifth and seventh with birdies and Taylor the sixth with par.
Taylor then won Nos. 8 and 10 with pars to go 3 up, 11 with a birdie and 12 with a par. He closed things out with a par on the 14th.
For Taylor, who tied for second last fall at the World Amateur Team Championship, this week has been a continuation of a most impressive run over the last three months.
He closed out the college season with second-place showings at the Pac-10 Championship and NCAA West Regional and a tie for ninth at the NCAA Championship.
And before making his way to Oklahoma, Taylor tied for 36th and was low amateur at the U.S. Open and captured the Sahalee Players Championship.
“I’ve really been playing well all year,” Taylor said. “The big thing is I’ve been consistent. I’ve had some bad rounds here and there, but overall I’ve stayed very consistent.
Fowler was 3 up after eight holes, but just 1 up through 10 holes before kicking his game into high gear.
The 2007 U.S. Walker Cupper won Nos. 11 and 12 with pars and then put the match to rest with birdies at 13 and 14.
“I played solid again today,” said Fowler, the recipient of the 2008 Ben Hogan Award. “I missed a few putts, but I made a lot of pars. The main thing was I stayed away from making an big mistakes.”
Like the mistake he made the previous day in stroke play when he five-putted for a quadruple bogey on the par-4 eighth hole.
He bettered that score by five shots against Erkenbeck when he birdied the hole.
“I’m playing well and I feel if I keep playing well I have a good chance to be there on Saturday (for 36-hole final),” Fowler said. “I’ve always been a aggressive player, but sometimes you have to make yourself pull back a little and play conservative. Make your pars and go on. I’m just trying to keep it in the short grass and not push anything. So far I’ve been doing that.”
In some other notable first round matches:
• As head coach at Augusta (Ga.) State, Josh Gregory was plenty familiar with his opening-round opponent, Cory Nagy, who will be a senior this season at Charlotte where he’s been named an All-American three times. Gregory knew he would have to play his best if he was going to move on to the second round.
“I knew a lot about him and how good a player he is,” said Gregory, who defeated Nagy, 1 up. “I haven’t really watched him play much, but I did today for 18 holes and he’d definitely the better player. I was just fortunate today to get the better of him. It was a great match and to beat a player of his caliber is pretty special.”
After a birdie at the ninth hole, Gregory was 2 up. Nagy, a quarterfinalist in this event last year, won Nos. 10 and 11 with birdies. Gregory won the 15th with a par and both made par on the final three holes.
Still, Gregory made it an exciting finish when at No. 17 he drained a 50-footer for par to halve the hole.
• Australia’s Mitch Krywulycz joined his Jaguar coach Gregory in the second round when he defeated Austin Bowman, 2 up. Krywulycz was 3 up after 12 holes, but Bowman won Nos. 13 and 17. Krywulycz then won 18 with a par.
• Wesley Bryan, who finished second at the Northeast Amateur and North & South Amateur, edged Robert Riesen, 1 up. Bryan, a freshman last season at South Carolina, was 2 up through 12 holes, lost No. 13 and won the 15th. Riesen, a senior at North Carolina, won the 17th with a birdie before both made par at 18.
• Cameron Peck, the 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, overcame a 3-down deficit after seven holes and defeated Tommy Sikes, 2 and 1. Peck, an incoming freshman at Texas A&M, won Nos. 8 and 9 with pars and 11 with a birdie to square the match with Sikes, who won this year’s National Junior College Athletic Association Championship as a sophomore at Midland College. Peck then won 16 with a par and 17 with a bogey to end the match.
• Eddie Olson, a quarterfinalist at the ’07 U.S. Amateur, lost the first two holes, but came back for a 3-and-1 victory over Sean Knapp, the oldest player in the match play field at 47. Olson, a senior-to-be at UNLV, squared the match by winning Nos. 3 and 4 then won holes 8, 11 and 16 with pars.
• Alton Anderson Jr., lost a 5-up lead after eight holes, but hung on to defeat Zach Barlow with a par on the 19th hole. Barlow surged back and won Nos. 9, 11, 13 and 14 and sent the match back to the first hole with a birdie at the 18th.
• The longest match of the opening round turned into a battle between teammates with Federico Damus of Argentina, who completed his eligibility this season at West Florida, and Kyle Scott of South Africa, who played the last two seasons at the Florida Panhandle school and is transferring to Georgia Tech this fall.
Damus was 3 up after three holes, but Scott came back and a par on No. 15 gave him his first lead of the match. Damus won the 17th with a par and both made par on the next four holes. It finally ended on the 22nd hole when Damus made a par.