ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – The Jones Cup is the first major amateur competition of the season. The event has added importance in this, a Walker Cup year. Here are five things you need to know entering Super Sunday’s final round:
1.) Bud Cauley is tied with Jordan Spieth for the Jones Cup’s 36-hole lead. Both players shot 73-70–143.
Cauley played a limited amateur schedule in 2010 after a long 2009 season that culminated in his selection to the Walker Cup team. Cauley is off to a strong start in his campaign for a second Walker Cup selection.
Cauley, No. 33 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, struggled with his driver during the fall college season, but straightened it out during his holiday break from Alabama.
“I drove it really poorly,” said Cauley, a junior from Jacksonville, Fla. “Normally, driving is something I rely on. Scrambling all the time wears on you.”
Cauley birdied four of his first seven holes Saturday. The first three birdies came on putts inside 10 feet.
“I drove it well today. If you don’t drive it well here, you don’t have the opportunity to hit irons close,” he said. “That’s really what I worked on coming into here, was hitting fairways.”
Patrick Rodgers, a 2011 high school graduate bound for Stanford, is one shot back. Rodgers was runner-up in stroke play at last year’s U.S. Amateur. Rodgers, of Avon, Ind., visited his grandparents last weekend in Tampa, Fla., to prepare for this event.
2.) Jordan Spieth
Spieth is looking to become the fourth player in the past five Walker Cups to make the team the same year he graduated from high school. The last player to do so? Rickie Fowler, in 2007.
Spieth won the AJGA’s Ping Invitational by nine shots in October. The Jones Cup is Spieth’s first event since that start. He increased his workouts during the offseason, and said he’s gained about 15 pounds since October.
“I’m hitting it farther, and it’s a lot easier to stay stable and be more consistent,” he said. “I’m able to keep everything under control and still get the distance on it.”
Spieth, the 2009 U.S. Junior champ and 2009 AJGA Player of the Year, is No. 2 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings. He’ll play a full schedule of amateur golf this summer as he tries to make the Walker Cup team. He’s eligible for the U.S. Junior, though, and will have one last chance to become the first multiple U.S. Junior champ since Tiger Woods.
While Spieth is playing the Jones Cup’s final round, the Super Bowl will be held in his hometown of Dallas.
Spieth said it was “possible” he could’ve attended the game if he were in town. “I’m not a big fan of either team that’s left, but it would’ve been cool to go to the Super Bowl, “ he said. “I guess I’ll root for the Packers because they’re in the NFC. I’ve been to a few games at that stadium already. It’s unbelievable.”
3.) Walker Cup
Even though the USGA’s annual meetings are this week, U.S. Walker Cup captain Jim Holtgrieve is at Ocean Forest to watch potential U.S. Walker Cuppers, including 11 of the 16 players at last month’s Walker Cup practice session. Here’s how those 11 have fared through the Jones Cup’s first two rounds:
T-1. Bud Cauley, 73-70–143
T-1. Jordan Spieth, 73-70–143
T-4. Patrick Reed, 75-71–146
T-7. Scott Langley, 76-71–147
T-7. Andrew Putnam, 75-72–147
T-18. John Hahn, 78-72–150
T-18. Peter Uihlein, 79-71–150
T-22. Blayne Barber, 76-75
T-42. Russell Henley, 78-76–154
T-55. Harris English, 80-76–156
T-69. Nathan Smith, 78-80
Holtgrieve also can scout the competition. There are handful of Great Britain & Ireland players at Ocean Forest, led by England’s Eddie Pepperell, who’s T-12 after shooting 76-73.
4.) Patrick Reed
Reed played in the tournament’s second-to-last group en route to victory in 2010. He’ll play in the same position Sunday. Reed is three shots off the lead. A 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th helped pull him closer to the lead. He hit 7-iron into the green.
“I just stuck with my gameplan for the week – just hit to the middle of the greens and try to make some putts,” Reed said. “I learned my lesson the first time I came out here and tried to play my normal game. Being aggressive at flags doesn’t work here.”
5) The weather
Winter weather at Ocean Forest usually isn’t ideal for golf. Sunday will be cold (temperatures are expected to peak at 56 degrees during play), but the wind will only be about 8 mph, and there’s no rain in the weather.com forecast. Ocean Forest is a challenge in any conditions, though.
“Even with good conditions today, no one shot in the 60s,” Reed said. “You have to hit every golf shot well.”