Events to watch: U.S. Publinx, Southern Am
Well, amateur golf fans, another week of summer is in the books. However, there’s no need to frown because two more great events are on the schedule this week, including the U.S. Amateur Public Links.
U.S. Amateur Public Links
- Course: Bryan Park
- City: Browns Summit, N.C.
- Yardage: 7,218
- Par: 71
- Round 1 of stroke play began: Monday
- Round 1 of match play begins: Wednesday
- Weather forecast: Scattered thunderstorms throughout the week, making for a wet week in North Carolina. Pack your umbrellas and rain gear, golf fans.
- 2009 champion: Brad Benjamin
- Why you should watch: The Publinx is one of the best tournaments to follow each summer. Like the U.S. Amateur, you get a lot of top players, a championship golf course and a chance to see top amateurs face each other one-on-one in a match-play bracket.
Not only that, but when the chance to earn a Masters invite is on the line, you know everyone wants to win this week more than any other … assuming they don’t try to win the U.S. Amateur.
Best Bet: Patrick Reed. I know these things are nearly impossible to predict, but I like the way Reed is playing. P-Reed tied for 16th at the Players Amateur, and his match-play record for champion Augusta State at the NCAA Championships in June was a perfect 3-0. The other thing that makes me think Reed is the real deal is who he beat at NCAAs. In the quarterfinals, he defeated Georgia Tech’s Chesson Hadley; in the semifinals, he defeated FSU’s Brooks Koepka; and in the finals, he defeated last weekend’s Sahalee winner Peter Uihlein. Those are three great players defeated by Reed, and that is why he’s my pick.
Sleeper Pick: Wesley Graham. After struggling in Tallahassee as an FSU freshman, Graham was a big part of the ‘Noles' success last year. Graham is another outstanding player with a strong match-play record. In 2007, Graham was a semifinalist at the U.S. Junior Championship. Currently, Graham is No. 140 in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com rankings, and he is in range to be a real sleeper going in. Sometimes, a match-play event is exactly what a player needs to boost his confidence and get that swagger to do well in the week-long event.
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- Course: Shoal Creek Golf & Country Club
- City: Birmingham, Ala.
- Yardage: 7,234
- Par: 72
- Round 1 of stroke play begins: Wednesday
- Weather forecast: Rain continues along the Southeast as isolated thunderstorms in the afternoon are expected.
- 2009 champion: Gregor Main
- Why you should watch: Shoal Creek will be hosting its first big event since the 2008 U.S. Junior Championship, which Cameron Peck won.
This week, players will face a similar course to what the Shoal Creek members play every day. However, there have been a few changes since the U.S. Juniors. The rough is up about a quarter of an inch for this week, and players will see a few new bunkers. Hole No. 2, which is a 407-yard, dogleg-right par 4, has a fairway bunker on the left side of the landing zone, as does the sixth hole, which is a 565-yard par 5.
The course also adjusted bunkers around the 18th green, which is intended to pinch approach shots. The Southern Amateur annually puts on a great tournament with a stellar field, and this year it also happens to be at an amazing golf course.
Best Bet: Jonathan Randolph. When it comes to making picks, I’ll stick to my theory that local guys tend to play better near their backyards. Randolph is from Brandon, Miss., about a 4-hour car ride from Shoal Creek. Earlier in the summer, we saw Randolph help Team USA win the Palmer Cup. This spring, he made a name for himself in college golf, becoming a first-team All-American and an All-SEC selection.
I have been waiting for Randolph to win a premier event so others will get to know this up-and-comer, and I think a win at the Southern would do just that.
Sleeper Pick: David Holmes. The Tennessee native is one of those quietly good players who often is overlooked. Last summer, he finished T-11 at the Southern Amateur, T-2 at the Northeast Amateur and T-5 at the Southwestern Amateur. Holmes is a mature player who knows how to control his driver and read greens exceptionally well. When you play a course like Shoal Creek, you need to know where your misses are and where you can afford to take chances. Holmes is the type of player who can figure those things out, and I hope he does so this pick looks absolutely genius!