Cowboy teammates to square off in quarters
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – After Peter Uihlein hit his tee shot on the fifth hole at Chambers Bay, he lingered on the tee for a couple minutes, waiting to watch his Oklahoma State teammate Morgan Hoffmann hit his approach into the nearby seventh green.
Standing high above the green, Uihlein applauded after Hoffmann’s approach shot found the putting surface. Uihlein and Hoffmann were friends during Thursday’s third round at the U.S. Amateur. They’ll still be friends during Friday’s quarterfinals, but foes as well. Uihlein and Hoffmann were also teammates on last year’s U.S. Walker Cup team.
U.S. Amateur (Rds. of 32, 16)
As temperatures dropped and the wind picked up, the Rounds of 32 and 16 created a lot of excitement at Chambers Bay.
“Obviously he’s one of my best friends, but it won’t be too much different,” Uihlein said. “I don’t expect him to miss a fairway tomorrow. I’m just trying to play my game, not do anything different, and hopefully it works.”
Each player has made the quarterfinals in one of the past two years, but never advanced further. Uihlein made the quarterfinals of last year’s Amateur. Hoffmann made the quarterfinals in 2008. Only one can advance to the semifinals this year.
To add to the intrigue, Oklahoma State assistant coach Alan Bratton is caddying for Uihlein. Bratton caddied for Hoffmann at the U.S. Open.
“I just told (Uihlein) to get ready to play just like he would anyone else,” Bratton said. “They’re good friends. They’re big boys, and they’ve played big events before. ... I think they’ll both embrace the situation and however it turns out.”
Of his situation – helping one of his players try to beat another one – Bratton said, “That’s a little different. I’m just show up, keep up, shut up anyways.”
It’s not the first time Oklahoma State teammates will face off late in the U.S. Amateur. Kris Cox and Trip Kuehne faced off in the semifinals of the 1994 U.S. Amateur at TPC Sawgrass. Kuehne beat Cox, then lost to Tiger Woods in the final match.
Uihlein beat John Hahn in the Round of 16 to set up his match with Hoffmann. That match was an inter-company battle. Uihlein’s father, Wally, is the CEO of the Acushnet, the parent company of Titleist. Hahn’s father, John, is a Titleist sales rep.
Uihlein won a difficult match with Hahn. He didn’t lead until he won the first extra hole after Hahn flared his tee shot into high grass right of the fairway. Uihlein hit the green with a 6-iron, and Hahn conceded Uihlein’s birdie putt after missing his bogey putt.
“I’m sure we won’t really speak too much when we play,” Uihlein said of Hoffmann. “We’re both kind of quiet when we play.”
Hoffmann beat San Diego’s Alex Ching, 4 and 2, in the Round of 16. Hoffmann jumped out to an early lead, winning Nos. 3-5. He hit pitching wedge to 7 feet to birdie No. 3, hit 5-iron to 4 feet for eagle on No. 4,then hit 5-iron to 8 feet for birdie on the fifth hole.
Ching won the sixth hole, but fell back to 3 down on No. 7 after his approach hit the flagstick and rolled off the green. Hoffmann halved the next hole with a 10-foot birdie putt, won No. 10 with a 30-foot birdie putt and won the short par-4 12th with a two-putt birdie from 190 feet.
The players exchanged double bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15, and Hoffmann won the match after Ching took four shots to find the green on the par-4 16th. Now Hoffmann can look forward to facing his good friend.
“It’s going to be great. It’s going to be intense,” Hoffmann said. “It’s going to be a great match.”