Thompson medals on wild day at U.S. Junior
ADA, Mich. – Gavin Hall torched Egypt Valley Country Club at a record-breaking pace. Jordan Spieth’s back-nine surge thrust him into elite company.
And then Curtis Thompson, trying to separate himself from his more famous siblings, dashed everyone’s medalist hopes.
If Tuesday was any indication, it’s going to be an unpredictable week on the west coast of Michigan.
On a volatile day for scoring at the U.S. Junior Amateur, Thompson shot a 6-under 66 to sneak ahead of Hall and Spieth and claim medalist honors. Thompson had a two-round total of 10-under 134. The top 64 players advanced to match play, which starts Wednesday.
U.S. Junior Amateur (Stroke play Rd. 2)
Curtis Thompson shot a second round 66 at Egypt Valley Country Club to edge Jordan Spieth and Gavin Hall for medalist honors.
“You come out here to win,” said Thompson, younger brother of PGA Tour player Nicholas Thompson and older sibling of 15-year-old phenom Alexis Thompson, who recently turned pro. “Being stroke-play medalist is the first goal, but in match play, anything can happen.”
That was a familiar refrain Tuesday at Egypt Valley.
Playing in the second group off in the morning, Hall, 15, took advantage of benign conditions and shot a 10-under 62, the lowest 18-hole score ever at the Junior Amateur. He recorded nine birdies, an eagle and a bogey to top the previous Junior Amateur mark by two shots and set a new course record.
“After seeing the low scores yesterday, I really thought a low number was possible,” Hall said.
“I was shocked,” said Spieth, who found out on the 10th tee just as he was about to begin his second round. “That’s ridiculous. That’s something really special.”
The 62 was easily the lowest score Hall had posted in competition. In fact, he carded his previous low round (65) a week earlier, at the Rochester District Golf Association’s Ryan Championship at Oak Hill, an event he won by 12 shots. He had top-7 finishes in two AJGA invitational starts this season.
“I had a lot of confidence coming in, but I wanted to prove myself and redeem myself for last year,” said Hall, referring to when he shot rounds of 76-78 at the ’09 Junior at Trump National and failed to advance to the match-play portion of the championship.
Thompson had an early exit last year, too. As the No. 4 seed, Thompson ran into Cameron Wilson, a top-30 player nationally, and never stood a chance when Wilson got hot with the putter, took a 5-up advantage at the turn and cruised to a 3-and-1 victory.
“Match play is a lot of fun,” Thompson said, “but it doesn’t always reward the best player.”
That said, Spieth was inarguably the best player in last year’s field. And for a while Tuesday, it looked like he would again be the player to beat, this time after topping Hall’s record-breaking performance.
Spieth, who shared the lead after the opening round, closed with birdies on five of his last eight holes, tying the lead at 9-under 135.
“I said to myself, ‘Don’t hold anything back, and if it doesn’t work out, it starts over after today anyway,’ ” Spieth said. “I figured I might as well go out and fire and try to get medalist.’ ”
And for a time, it seemed the 16-year-old from Dallas was on the verge of a historic achievement, seeing how no player has won consecutive stroke-play medals – or multiple U.S. Junior titles, for that matter – since Tiger Woods in the early 1990s.
Thirty minutes later, though, his closing stretch was rendered a mere footnote. Thompson signed for a 66, a mistake-free round capped by a high-lofted approach to a foot of the cup on No. 9, his final hole of the day.
“It’s something everybody wants, to be medalist,” Thompson said. “You want to be the guy everyone is trying to beat.”
Lately, though, Thompson has been the guy everyone seems to forget.
Trapped between two successful pros/siblings, Thompson was asked for the umpteenth time Tuesday how it felt to have every achievement measured to their lofty standards. He laughed, blushed, nodded and said, “I get that a lot.
“It’s something to live up to that,” he continued. “It’s great, but tough at the same time. You put that pressure on yourself everyday, that you want to go out and shoot a low number and say that I’m here, too. I have the game. I say to myself, ‘I’ve got to be better to live up to what they’ve done.’ “
Emerging from the star-studded pack Tuesday at the U.S. Junior was yet another step.