CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – Chris Williams, stand bag slung backwards over his left shoulder, carried his way into the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur. With the victory, Williams strengthened his grip on the world’s No. 1 amateur ranking.
Williams, a Washington senior, beat East Carolina’s Adam Stephenson, 5 and 3, in the U.S. Amateur’s Round of 32 Thursday morning. Williams, of Moscow, Idaho, needed just one word to describe his play: “Awesome.” He then added, “He’s a good player. I needed to play well to beat him. I played the best I’ve played all week. To only make one bogey out here, I feel pretty good.”
Williams has carried his own bag throughout the week, and will continue to do so in Thursday afternoon’s Round of 16 match. There are plenty of people who’d love to carry his bag. He is, after all, the world’s top-ranked amateur, according to the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking. One gallery member offered his services as Williams walked off the 10th green.
“I’m just doing my own thing. Chilling. Cruising,” Williams said. “I don’t mind not having a caddie. I tend to make decisions well for myself. When you get a caddie, then you start talking about things. I like to be very decisive. With no caddie, I can do things the way I want to do them.”
Williams is playing for more than the Havemeyer Trophy. He’s also trying to hold on to his No. 1 position in the R&A’s rankings. The top-ranked player at week’s end earns the Mark H. McCormack Medal, which comes with exemptions into the 2013 U.S. Open and Open Championship. He also can earn starts into the Masters and U.S. Open by being runner-up this week, or starts in those three majors by winning this week.
Many of Williams’ closest pursuers in the world rankings already have left Cherry Hills. No. 2 Hideki Matsuyama missed the cut, and third-ranked Jordan Spieth lost in the first round to NCAA champion Thomas Pieters. No. 4 Daan Huizing did not play this week, and No. 5 Justin Thomas and sixth-ranked Bobby Wyatt will face off in Thursday afternoon’s Round of 16, guaranteeing one of the Alabama players will be leaving today.
Williams was 3 up at the turn against Stephenson, of Greenville, N.C., but made his only bogey of the round at the par-4 10th to lose the hole. Williams won the next hole with a two-putt birdie after hitting 3-iron from 285 yards on the 605-yard, par-5 11th. He won the par-4 14th after hitting pitching wedge from 170 yards and making a 7-foot birdie putt. The match ended when Stephenson conceded a 5-foot par putt at the next hole.
Williams walked well ahead of Stephenson throughout the match, and didn’t appear to say a word, except for the required discussions. Williams already has clinched his best U.S. Amateur finish. He lost in the second round of last year’s Amateur and failed to make match play in 2010. And he’s doing it all by himself.