BROOKLINE, Mass. – The first round of match play is in the books at the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club. On a sunny, but windy day just outside of Boston, 32 players moved on to Thursday’s play.
Here are 5 Things you need to know from the U.S. Amateur:
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1. WALKER CUP HOPES ALIVE Max Orrin needed all 18 holes to advance to the second round of match play in his first U.S. Amateur, posting a 1-up victory over Rhys Pugh of Cardiff, Wales.
“When you get to match play, anything can happen,” said Orrin, a native of Birchington, England. “It was a close game all the way around, and I didn’t play my best.
“This is the worst I’ve played all year.”
Pugh, a member of the GB&I squad for the 2011 Walker Cup, took a 2-up lead on No. 7 after chipping in from the left rough and Orrin missed his 15-foot birdie putt.
Orrin thought it was just going to be one of those days where Pugh would make some really good shots because that was already his second chip-in of the day.
He fought back and finally took the lead in match on No. 15 when he made a 3-footer for birdie.
Pugh two-putted for par on par-3 16th as Orrin couldn’t get up and down from the greenside rough.
17 was pivotal as Orrin made a 4-footer for par and Pugh couldn’t get up and down from 20 yards out. Orrin was 1 up heading to 18.
All Orrin wanted to do on the final hole was get the ball in the fairway. As the wind was blowing from left to right, his ball landed way right. He still was able to lay up in the fairway and put it on the green in three. He two-putt for bogey and that sealed his victory as Pugh also had a tap-in for bogey.
It was an important match for Orrin as he is one of 10 players competing for a spot on the GB&I Walker Cup team, which will be announced on Monday.
“It’s massive,” Orrin, 19, said. “. . . you never know if you’re safe or are you in. You just try and forget about it on the course. Just try and prove myself, and I managed to get a win today and hopefully that helps me out.”
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2. CO-MEDALISTS ADVANCE: Stroke-play co-medalists Brady Watt and Neil Raymond advance to the Round of 32.
Watt had a decisive 5-and-3 victory over Sean Walsh of Keller, Texas. He never trailed in his match after gaining the lead on just the second hole.
Watt, the No. 2 seed heading into match play, had thought about the fact that the No. 63 seed last year, Steven Fox, won the championship. But the Aussie put that quickly to rest, telling himself: “I’m just going to go out there and play my game.”
Raymond, on the other hand, was 2 down in his match fast to Jason Anthony of Fairfield, Calif.
“I had a pretty poor start today, actually,” Raymond said. “I bogeyed the first two holes and after that I knew it was going to be a pretty long day.”
It was a back-and-forth match over the next few holes, but Raymond took the lead for good on No. 9.
He is the No. 1 seed and he can feel the bulls-eye on his back.
“If I was playing and someone was the No. 1 seed, you’re always going to have your eye on them,” Raymond said. “Everyone wants to beat everyone, if you don’t beat someone you’re not going to win the tournament.”
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3. FIRST TIME’S A CHARM: Chase Koepka’s week just keeps getting better and better.
First, he had a surprise visit from his brother, Brooks, who plays on the European Tour, and now, in his first USGA event, he has advanced into the Round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur with a 2-and-1 victory over Walker Cup hopeful Michael Miller of Brewster, N.Y.
Koepka, a sophomore at South Florida, has not played in a match-play event in four years when he lost in the Round of 16 at a Florida Junior Golf Tour match play event.
“I’m just learning as the week goes on,” Koepka said.
Brooks, who never advanced to match play at the U.S. Amateur, gave him some advice before he left.
“Just to stay calm and keep a good mindset all day because one bad shot in match play, you can make a seven or eight, and you’re still losing just 1 down,” Koepka said. “And just to keep confident in what I’m doing.”
Koepka lost the first hole in his match on Wednesday, but made a solid par on No. 3 to get it back to all square. He never lost another hole.
He got it to 3 up through 11 holes, only to see Miller make a move.
After sloppy double-bogeys on Nos. 12 and 14, Koepka was only 1 up through 14 holes.
He made solid par saves of 5 feet on Nos. 15 and 16 to retain his lead.
Koepka’s birdie putt on No. 17 fell in the cup in the side door to close out the victory.
“I really couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said.
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4.INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR – It was a hundred years ago right here at The Country Club when Francis Ouimet walked across the street and taught British golf heroes Harry Vardon and Ted Ray a thing or two about championship golf.
Well, don’t look know but four Englishmen are threatening to steal the show in the 113th U.S. Amateur.
Raymond marched to his 1-up win, while last month’s low amateur at the Open Championship, Matthew Fitzpatrick, won three holes with pars, got 3 up at the turn, and outclassed Gerrit Chambers, 4 and 3.
They’ll be joined in the Round of 32 by Greg Eason and Orrin.
Not that the English are dominating the international flavor, mind you, because four Canadians (Blair Hamilton, Charlie Hughes, Corey Connors, Justin Shin) and three Australians (Watt, Oliver Goss and Nathan Holman) are still alive. Oh, and when you toss in Sebastian Cappelen of Denmark, Gavin Green of Malaysia and Matthias Schwab of Austria, you have Americans barely outnumbering the internationals, 18-14.
And if you’re looking forward to the Round of 16, the balance might not change much because 12 of the internationals have matches against Americans. The only exception is Cappelen vs. Hughes, the Dane and the Canadian.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: 2012 U.S. Am runner-up Michael Weaver lost 3 and 2 to Eason. . . . U.S. Open participant Gavin Hall won 2 and 1 over Bo Andrews, who shot a course-record 63 at Charles River Country Club on Tuesday. . . . Walker Cup candidates Bobby Wyatt (2012 U.S. Amateur medalist) and Brandon Hagy (2012 U.S. Amateur semifinalist) advanced. . . . U.S. Public Links Amateur champion Jordan Niebrugge lost at the hands of Georgia Tech’s Seth Reeves. . . . In extra holes, 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Scottie Scheffler took down Stewart Jolly.
– Jim McCabe also contributed