Wilson holds on, medals at U.S. Am
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – His round spiraling downward, Jeff Wilson pinched a gap wedge off the baked-out 18th fairway to set up one final birdie at Chambers Bay.
Six hours later, that shot proved even more significant.
With a birdie on his last hole, Wilson, a 47-year-old car dealer from Fairfield, Calif., edged teens Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Rodgers and earned medalist honors at the 110th U.S. Amateur. It was the fifth medal at a U.S. Golf Association event for Wilson, who shot 74 Tuesday at Chambers Bay to post a two-round total of 7-under 136. He is the second-oldest medalist in U.S. Amateur history.
U.S. Amateur (Round 2)
Images from the second round of stroke-play qualifying at the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay.
“It’s nice to hang in the office,” Wilson said of being medalist, “but it means the tournament starts tomorrow.”
Wilson essentially secured a spot in the match-play bracket after Monday’s 10-under 62 at The Home Course, the second-lowest score ever at the U.S. Amateur. He spent the evening thumbing through congratulatory messages, only to realize in the middle of the night that he was “sitting there, tossing and turning, wondering how I’m going to grind it out today.”
“I just felt different today,” Wilson said. “All of a sudden, you have a 62 up there, and you’re thinking, ‘Geez, what’s gonna make match play?’ I knew it was going to be hard to come back, but all in all I played pretty well.”
Mindful that only a major meltdown would preclude him from winning a fifth USGA medal, Wilson worked cautiously around Chambers Bay, playing to the wide parts of the green, leaving his chips and lag putts on the appropriate side and avoiding any and all danger off the tee. He played his front nine in even par, before running into trouble at the 13th, a 512-yard par 4 that requires a precise approach into a narrow green.
Wilson made double bogey from the middle of the fairway, after his 4-iron approach took an unlucky bounce off a mound, and followed with a bogey on the 14th. He couldn’t get up-and-down from behind the 17th green, leading to another bogey, but he sank a 5-foot birdie on the 18th to close in 38.
After the round, Wilson and his fellow competitors met with rules officials in the scoring tent regarding a possible pace-of-play violation, but his group was not assessed a penalty.
“This course does not allow you to look ahead, not one shot,” said Wilson, a three-time Mid-Amateur medalist and low 36-hole qualifier at the 2008 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst. “You can make any score from anywhere out here, and because of that, you kind of stay where you are a little more and not worry about the medal or what the scores are going to be. If you start doing that, you’re going to have some trouble.”
Cantlay and Rodgers encountered no such trouble at The Home Course, which played nearly four shots easier over the two rounds of stroke play.
After making the turn in even par, Cantlay birdied five of his next seven holes to shoot 68 and vault up the leaderboard.
“Anything in the top 64 is good,” he said.
Rodgers, meanwhile, mixed seven birdies with four bogeys in his round of 68. He bogeyed three of the four par 3s.
Justin Thomas, of Goshen, Ky., matched the best round among early starters at Chambers Bay with a 69. When the afternoon wave got under way, only two players – Wilson and Thomas – were under par after completing two rounds.
“There’s just something about this course; I love it,” said Thomas, a finalist at this year’s U.S. Junior Amateur. “It’s probably my favorite course I’ve ever played. You have to be so exact on everything and hit it in the right places or you’re going to make bogey or double.”
Patrick Reed, an integral part to Augusta State’s NCAA Championship-winning team in 2010, figured to have the best chance to overtake Wilson in the afternoon, when he began his round at The Home Course only four shots behind. But he got off to a bad start, making the turn in 41, and shot 77 to finish well back.
The second round of stroke play was completed late Tuesday, but there will be a 16-for-6 playoff for the final few spots in the match-play bracket, starting at 7:15 a.m. local time Wednesday. The first round of match play will begin at 9 a.m.