I don’t envy the USGA’s Walker Cup selectors. This is turning into one tight race. Here’s the latest edition of Golfweek’s Walker Cup Watch List, through July 17. Remember, this list isn’t a ranking of the game’s hottest players. It ranks Walker Cup candidates based on the criteria the USGA uses when picking the team. The USGA looks at results over a two-year period, with an emphasis on amateur results and finishes in USGA events.
(*-attended Walker Cup practice session)
1. Patrick Cantlay, Los Alamitos, Calif. (UCLA)*
Last ranked: T-1
Recent results: Won, Southern California Amateur; T-20, AT&T National (third consecutive top 25 on PGA Tour)
The skinny: Nice win by Cantlay at the Southern California Amateur, shooting 65-66 on the weekend. Winning when you’re such a heavy favorite is an admirable task, especially after playing three consecutive PGA Tour events.
T1. Peter Uihlein, Orlando, Fla. (Oklahoma State)*
Last ranked: 2
Recent results: T-48, British Open; T-70, AT&T National; Won, Northeast Amateur
The skinny: Uihlein made a scouting trip to Walker Cup site Royal Aberdeen the week before the British Open. He’s made the cut in two Tour events this year, but will be trying to play the weekend in a major for the first time.
3. Russell Henley, Macon, Ga. (Georgia)*
Last ranked: 3
Recent results: T-20, Dogwood Invitational
The skinny: Henley’s U.S. Open finish wasn’t as strong as last year, but he did get inside the top 10 on the weekend. He and Cantlay teamed at the Palmer Cup. Could they do it again at Aberdeen?
4. Nathan Smith, Pittsburgh (Mid-Am)*
Last ranked: 4
Recent results: Won, Sunnehanna Amateur
The skinny: After playing Royal Aberdeen, Uihlein texted Smith to tell him that Smith will tee off on the even shots during their alternate-shot matches. Why? Most are right-to-left, just like Smith’s preferred ball flight.
5. Harris English, Thomasville, Ga. (Georgia)*
Last ranked: 5
Recent results: Won, Southern Amateur; Semifinals, U.S. Amateur Public Links; T-3, U.S. Amateur Public Links stroke play; T-13, Northeast Amateur
The skinny: English’s Southern Amateur victory sealed his spot on the Walker Cup team.
6. John Peterson, Fort Worth, Texas (LSU)
Last ranked: 7
Recent results: 15th, Players Amateur; Round of 32, U.S. Amateur Public Links
The skinny: Peterson started this year on the outskirts of the Walker Cup landscape. No one has won bigger titles in 2011, though. He won both the NCAA Championship and Jones Cup.
7. Blayne Barber, Lake City, Fla. (Auburn)*
Last ranked: 8
Recent results: 5th, Southern Amateur; 3rd, Northeast Amateur
The skinny: A nice finish at the Southern Amateur – birdies on three of his final five holes – should go a long way toward clinching his spot on the team. He’s another player that is well-liked by his teammates and seems to fit the USGA mold.
8. David Chung, Fayetteville, N.C. (Stanford)*
Last ranked: 6
Recent results: T-53, Southern Amateur; T-28, Northeast Amateur
The skinny: Chung hasn’t been up to last year’s standard, but last year’s victories at the Western Amateur and Porter Cup, appearance in the U.S. Amateur final, and the fact that he represented the United States at the World Amateur Team Championship, make him a very strong candidate.
9. James White, Acworth, Ga. (Georgia Tech)
Last ranked: 9
Recent results: 5th, Players Amateur; 2nd, Northeast Amateur; T-8, Sunnehanna Amateur
The skinny: White, a first-team All-American, has come on strong with top 10s at the NCAA East Regional, NCAA Championship, Sunnehanna, Northeast and Players.
10. Corbin Mills, Easley, S.C. (Clemson)
Last ranked: 11
Recent results: Won, Players Amateur; Won, U.S. Amateur Public Links; Medalist, U.S. Amateur Public Links
The skinny: Mills wasn’t even on the Walker Cup radar entering the U.S. Amateur Public Links. Then he won the Publinks and Players Am in consecutive weeks. Fewer players will win bigger titles this year. Mills has two things hurting his candidacy, though. The USGA doesn’t hold its own Publinks in the highest regard. Ask Brandt Snedeker. Also, Mills had achieved little of note before these two victories.
ON THE BUBBLE
11. Jordan Spieth, Dallas (Texas)*
Last ranked: 10
Recent results: T-41, Northeast Amateur; T-17, Sunnehanna Amateur
The skinny: Spieth is best known for his strong play in the past two Byron Nelson Championships. He’s also a former U.S. Junior champ whose resume is bolstered by strong showings at this year’s Jones Cup and Azalea. His summer schedule has been limited as he readies for college.
12. Patrick Rodgers, Avon, Ind.
Last ranked: 13
Recent results: T-16, Southern Amateur; T-2, Players Amateur; 4th, Northeast Amateur
The skinny: Rodgers may be the hidden gem of this Class of 2011. The incoming Stanford freshman doesn’t get as much attention as Jordan Spieth or Anthony Paolucci, but he’s making a strong run at this year’s Walker Cup team. He seems to be in contention every time he plays.
13. Scott Langley, Manchester, Mo. (Illinois)*
Last ranked: 14
Recent results: MC, John Deere Classic; MC, Dogwood Invitational
The skinny: Langley is a class act, and a player the USGA would like to have on the team. Unfortunately, he’s in the middle of some deep struggles. He will rise rapidly in the Walker Cup rankings if he starts to turn his game around.
14. Andrew Putnam, University Place, Wash. (Pepperdine)*
Last ranked: 15
Recent results: T-4, Sahalee Players Championship; 10th, Northeast Amateur; T-17, Sunnehanna Amateur
The skinny: His older brother, Michael, played on the 2005 Walker Cup team. Andrew has some work to do this summer, but is still a strong candidate. He participated in the Walker Cup practice session earlier this year.
15. Chris Williams, Moscow, Idaho
Last ranked: 13
Recent results: Round of 32, Pacific Northwest Amateur (3rd in stroke play); Won, Sahalee Players Championship; Round of 32, U.S. Amateur Public Links; MC, U.S. Open
The skinny: A poor showing at the Pacific Northwest Amateur did not help his cause, halting the momentum he gained by his Sahalee win.
Others to watch (alphabetical order):
Brad Benjamin; Luke Guthrie; John Hahn; Gregor Main; Bank Vongvanij; Bobby Wyatt; Andrew Yun.
Opting out (turning professional):
• Bud Cauley*, Jacksonville, Fla. (Alabama)
• Morgan Hoffmann, Wyckoff, N.J. (Oklahoma State)
• Patrick Reed*, Martinez, Ga. (Augusta State)
• Kevin Tway, Edmond, Okla. (Oklahoma State)