Wilson opens with 62, leads U.S. Am by 7
U.S. Amateur (Round 1)
Images from the first round of stroke-play qualifying at Chambers Bay.
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Jeff Wilson knows what it takes to be a qualifying medalist at a USGA championship.
He should. Three times in the past the 47-year-old Toyota dealer from Fairfield, Calif., earned that distinction at the U.S. Mid-Amateur and he did the same at the 2000 U.S. Amateur.
He appears on his way for a fifth such medal.
With a stunning eagle-eagle finish, Wilson shot 10-under 62 Monday at the Home Course in the opening round of stroke play qualifying at the 110th U.S. Amateur Championship.
In relation to par, that gave him a seven-stroke advantage over a host of players in the 312-player starting field going into Tuesday’s final stroke play round, which will determine the 64 players who will advance to match play. The match play portion of the tournament will be from Wednesday to Sunday.
Patrick Reed, 20, of Augusta, Ga., leads a pack of 10 players who stand at 3 under. Reed’s score of 68, however, came on the Chambers Bay course, considered the more difficult of the two and the one that will be used for match play as well as the 2015 U.S. Open.
Reed, a semifinalist in the 2008 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst, had only one of the three sub-par rounds at Chambers Bay among the 23 total posted the first day. The other two were Patrick Rodgers of Avon, Ind. (69) and Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos, Calif.
Also at 3-under are Nick Taylor, 22, of Canada, Richard Werenski, 18, of South Hadley, Mass., Harris English, 21, of Athens, Ga., John Hahn, 21, of Las Vegas, Daniel Berger, 17, of Jupiter, Fla., John Duke Hudson, 19, of Sonora, Texas, Michael Morrison, 32, of Roswell, Ga., and Max Homa, 19, of Valencia, Calif.
Playing late in the afternoon and starting on the 10th hole, Wilson, who was low amateur at the 2000 U.S. Open, got off to a quick start with birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. After making his lone bogey of the day at the 14th, he followed with birdies at 16 and 18.
He then birdied Nos. 3, 4 and 6 to stand 6 under on the round.
“When I got to the eighth hole (a par 5) I figured if I can make one more birdie and shoot 65 that would be a great way to start,” Wilson said.
So what does he do on the 561-yard eighth? He drives it in the fairway and then hits a 3-wood from 262 yards to eight feet and sinks the putt.
Wilson went one better at the par-4, 432-yard ninth. With 131 yards to the hole, Wilson hits a wedge shot and “the ball came off the club perfectly and went in.”
Talk about your fantastic finishes.
Not only was it Wilson’s lowest competitive round ever, it was the second lowest stroke play round in U.S. Amateur history, two shots shy of the 60 Billy Horschel shot at Chaska (Minn.) Town Golf Club in 2006.
“Right now I’m still trying to figure out what the heck happened,” Wilson said shortly after completing the round. “I know I was really nervous starting out, but I made three good putts on the first three holes and that kind of calmed me down. From there, everything just took off. I made a lot of the putts I should have made and some I probably shouldn’t have made.
“I’ve played in enough of these (USGA events) to know that in qualifying the main thing you want to do is get to match play,” he said. “But it sure is nice to pick up a medal every now and then.”
For Reed, his performance was a continuance of and outstanding year in progress. In February he won the Jones Cup and in April tied for third at the Terre Cotta. He tied for fifth at the NCAA Southwest Regional before his heroics at the NCAA finals, where he led Augusta State to a national crown.
He then tied for seventh at Sunnehanna and tied for 16th at the Players Amateur before advancing to the Sweet 16 at the U.S. Amateur Public Links, where he tied for second in the stroke play segment.
His opening 68 was highlighted by an eagle 2 on the par-4, 521-yard 14th hole where he holed out from 180 yards with an 8-iron.
“The ball landed at the front of the green and then just rolled right in the center (of the cup). I read that one perfectly,” Reed said with a big smile.
For the most part, though, his day was an up-and-down adventure.
“I’m not sure how many greens I hit, but I know it wasn’t many,” Reed said. “The thing was when I missed, I missed in the right spots and my up-and-down play was unbelievable. Oh, and I putted pretty well today.
“This golf course is very firm and fast and there are places you can get into some big trouble out there,” said Reed, who was a semifinalist at the 2009 Western Amateur. “But I really felt comfortable all day, a lot like I did back at Pinehurst. Tomorrow at the Home Course I just need to remember to stay patient, go for the middle of the greens, and let my putter do the work.”
Taylor took advantage of his knowledge of the two courses, which he played often during his four-year college career at Washington. The 2009 low amateur at the U.S. Open and runner-up and medalist at last year’s U.S. Public Links had four birdies and a bogey. His birdies came on the first and last holes on each nine while his bogey was at No. 4.
“The course was tougher than I expected,” Taylor said. “It was tough, but it was fun out there. Overall, I hit it pretty good.”
Werenski, who will be a freshman at Georgia Tech, had it at 5 under at one point. He made the turn in 32 with birdies at 3, 4, 5 and 8 and then added another at No. 11. But coming in he made bogey at Nos. 14 and 16.
“This (Home Course) is obviously the easier course so I wanted to go out and shoot a pretty good number,” Werenski said. “Tomorrow I’ll go out and try not to think about score. The thing is, you never know what can happen at Chambers Bay.”
Among those at 2 under is Byeong-Hun An of Seoul, South Korea, who became the youngest U.S. Amateur champion at 17 last year. He is trying to become the first to defend this title since Tiger Woods won three in a row from 1994-96.
“I’m really happy with a 70,” An said. “I dropped a lot of putts and missed like only one or two. Overall, it was a good day.”