U.S. Amateur: 10 players to watch at Cherry Hills

The U.S. Amateur begins today at historic Cherry Hills Country Club, site of Arnold Palmer’s 1960 U.S. Open win and Phil Mickelson’s victory at the 1990 U.S. Amateur. It’s a long week, with players needing to endure two days of stroke play and six match-play rounds to win the Havemeyer Trophy. Here’s 10 players to keep an eye on this week:

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1. Chris Williams

The Washington senior enters as the world’s No. 1 amateur. He’ll earn starts at next year’s U.S. Open and Open Championship if he can maintain that position until week’s end. Williams is coming off a recent victory at the Western Amateur, where he also was the stroke-play medalist. The Western win is a good sign for Williams, who’d struggled previously in match play. He made it to the Round of 32 at last year’s U.S. Amateur.

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2. Hideki Matsuyama

Matsuyama has made the cut in the past two Masters, finishing 27th and 54th. He’s also won the past two Asian Amateur Championships. Matsuyama, No. 2 in the R&A World Amateur Rankings, is the first amateur to win on the Japan Tour since Ryo Ishikawa. Matsuyama finished second on that tour’s Sun Chlorella Classic in late July. Matsuyama also is the 228th-ranked player in the professional Official World Golf Ranking, in spite of his limited pro schedule.

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3. Gary Nicklaus

Gary’s father, Jack Nicklaus, made amateur history of his own at Cherry Hills. Nicklaus, then a 20-year-old amateur, finished second to Arnold Palmer at the 1960 U.S. Open, setting the tournament record for low score by an amateur (282). Gary, a reinstated amateur and former PGA Tour player, qualified for this year’s U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur. Gary Nicklaus played the PGA Tour in 2000 and 2001. He lost a playoff to Phil Mickelson at the 2000 BellSouth Classic. He played 122 PGA Tour events in his career, playing several events per year on sponsor exemptions. He made 33 cuts with five top-25 finishes. That playoff loss was his only career top-10. He earned $693,571 on Tour.

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4. Jordan Spieth

This could be Spieth’s final U.S. Amateur. The 19-year-old will play PGA Tour Q-School this fall as an amateur. He’s had plenty of success in USGA events. Spieth and Tiger Woods are the only players to win multiple U.S. Junior titles. Spieth also was low amateur at this year’s U.S. Open (T-21) and a quarterfinalist at last year’s U.S. Amateur.

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5. Justin Thomas

Thomas is coming off a quarterfinal appearance at the Western Amateur. He also tied for 46th at the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic, a spot he earned for winning the Haskins Award as college golf’s top player. Thomas won four times as an Alabama freshman, including the SEC Championship and NCAA Southeast Regional. He also won the Jones Cup, one of the year’s top amateur events. He’s a top contender for a spot on the three-man United States squad for this year’s World Amateur Team Championship. A good week here will help his candidacy.

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6. Peter Williamson

Who’d have thought a player from Dartmouth could be among the world’s best amateurs? That’s the case with Williamson, who’s No. 8 in the R&A’s world amateur rankings. He was a third-team All-American and an All-American Scholar. The recent Dartmouth grad had one of the best summers of any American amateur, winning the North & South and Southern amateurs and making the semifinals at the Western Amateur.

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7. Bobby Wyatt

Wyatt, an Alabama junior, may have been overshadowed by freshman teammate Justin Thomas, the national player of the year, but Wyatt can’t be overlooked this summer. He won the Sunnehanna Amateur, was runner-up at both the Souther Amateur and Players Amateur and posted top-5s at the Dogwood Invitational and Northeast Amateur. He closed the college season by finishing second to Thomas at the SEC Championship and NCAA Southeast Regional.

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8. Beau Hossler

Hossler made a name for himself at this year’s U.S. Open when he briefly held the lead during the second round. Cherry Hills is a former U.S. Open site. The USGA doesn’t go easy on the Amateur field, setting up the course similarly to the Open, so we could see Hossler contend once again. He’ll be looking to make amends for this year’s U.S. Junior, where he lost in the seond round. He finished 29th at the U.S. Open and also made the cut at the PGA Tour’s AT&T National, finishing 74th.

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9. Marcel Schneider

Schneider, of Germany, is the highest-ranked European scheduled to compete in the U.S. Amateur. He’s sixth in the R&A World Amateur Rankings. He won this year’s Australian Amateur and had top-three finishes in this year’s German, Turkish, Spanish and Portuguese amateurs.

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10. T.J. Vogel

Vogel, a Florida senior, authored one of the summer’s most impressive performances with his 12-and-10 victory in the U.S. Amateur Public Links final. The second-team All-American from Florida has competed sparingly this summer, though. He’ll be back at the U.S. Amateur, seeking a second USGA title. Vogel’s Publinks title came in the mountains of Utah. Now he’s headed to another mountainous state, Colorado.

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