No. 1 McCarthy tops Thompson at Junior
ADA, Mich. – After beating two of the biggest names at the U.S. Junior Amateur, Denny McCarthy was asked if his road to the semifinals just became decidedly easier.
“It’s in the past now,” McCarthy said. “I’ve got to worry about my 1 p.m. tee time on the first hole. It’s great to have those matches done, but you just have to forget about it and keep moving forward.”
It’ll be difficult to forget this impressive performance.
With remarkable precision from the fairway, McCarthy defeated stroke-play medalist Curtis Thompson, 3 and 2, on a windless Thursday morning at Egypt Valley Country Club. McCarthy beat Grayson Murray, who made the cut at a Nationwide Tour event earlier this year, in the opening round of match play.
McCarthy, a Virginia commit and Golfweek’s top-ranked junior, faced eight straight birdie putts from inside 20 feet midway through his round to keep the pressure on Thompson, who again found little consistency off the tee.
Still wielding the driver on virtually every hole, generous fairway or not, Thompson ran into a bit more trouble Thursday than he did in his opening-round match, though he was able to escape against short-hitting Scottie Scheffler.
Not so on Thursday, and the 4-inch rough – wet and tangled in the early morning – certainly didn’t help.
“Just wasn’t my day,” said Thompson, tossing his ball into a ditch on the 17th hole as he walked back toward the clubhouse. “I played good enough to win, but a couple drives put me where I couldn’t win the hole.”
The turning point came on the par-5 13th, when Thompson pulled his drive into the left rough, behind an overhanging oak tree, a position from which he’d need to hit a sweeping hook around the branches. Seeing his opponent’s miscue, McCarthy pulled 3-wood, laid up with a mid-iron, and spun his wedge to within 5 feet for a conceded birdie to go 2 up with five to play.
“People asked me if I was intimidated (playing Thompson) and I said, ‘No, not at all,’ ” McCarthy said. “Match play is a completely different story than stroke play, and anything can happen. I just went out there and tried to hit fairways and greens and give myself some good looks.”
Had McCarthy sank a few putts, this match could have been even more lopsided. Despite giving himself makeable birdie putts on Nos. 7-14, four of which from inside 10 feet, he made only two birdies in that stretch.
What happened when his streak ended perhaps secured his victory.
On the par-4 15th, McCarthy hit his tee shot fat, leaving a lengthy second shot into a well-guarded green. With Thompson in close, McCarthy lofted a high pitch onto the front part of the green, his ball trickling within a foot for a conceded par. Thompson then proceeded to miss his birdie bid, one of several putts down the stretch that didn’t fall.
“That was a big up-and-down,” McCarthy said. “I knew I had to get that to keep my momentum up. That was huge.”
Asked what he took from a week that began so promisingly, Thompson said, “I shot 10 under (in stroke-play qualifying). No matter what happened in that match play, nobody can take that from me.”