Main medalist at U.S. Am as match play begins
Thursday, August 25, 2011
ERIN, Wis. – There finally is some clarity at the U.S. Amateur, with Gregor Main birdieing two of his final three holes Wednesday to earn medalist honors.
Whether he survives the first round of match play, however, may not be determined until Thursday.
Play was delayed more than an hour Wednesday morning due to fog, further pushing back the opening matches that are now scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. CDT. (A rain delay of nearly four hours Tuesday forced the second round of qualifying to be completed Wednesday; thus, only a handful of opening-round matches will be completed today.)
On another breezy, overcast morning at Erin Hills, Main pulled ahead of UNLV’s Blake Biddle with birdies on Nos. 7 and 8, his 16th and 17th holes of the day, to post 10 under in stroke-play qualifying.
“I’ll take it,” said Main, whose 36-hole total tied the record for low medalist at the U.S. Amateur (Hank Kim, 1994). “I can take a lot of confidence into match play and hopefully take down my opponents one by one.” Earlier this summer, Main, 22, announced he would not return to UCLA for his senior season and planned to turn pro after the U.S. Amateur. Well, unless he wins this week.
“It’d be tough to turn down those exemptions,” Main said, smiling, referring to the U.S. Amateur champ’s automatic entries into the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open the following year.
Main, who won only once in three years while at UCLA, said he gained invaluable match-play experience at the 2010 Western Amateur, where he lost in the finals to David Chung. That’s more than Biddle can say: Wednesday’s opening round will be his first time in match-play competition. “I’m not going to switch anything up,” said Biddle, 19. “It’s obviously working.”
At 8 under with six holes to play, Biddle was the unofficial leader when play was suspended Tuesday night. He played even par the rest of the way to earn the No. 2 seed. The three players who completed their second round at 7 under -- Beau Hossler, Blayne Barber and Ben Geyer -- tied for third along with Russell Henley, the soon-to-be Walker Cupper who won on the Nationwide Tour in May.
“I’m hitting it well,” Henley said. “This course rewards you when you do the right things.”
Sixty-four players advance to the match-play portion of the championship, and the cut fell at even par -- a number boosted by Blue Mound, the other stroke-play course, which played about 4.5 strokes easier than Erin Hills over the first two days. (A playoff for the final spots will begin around 1:40 p.m. CDT.) Scott Langley moved comfortably into match play with a 63 at Blue Mound. Corbin Mills, the U.S. Amateur Public Links winner, shot 64 there. Peter Uihlein, the reigning U.S. Amateur champ, didn’t fare quite as well -- he finished at 5 under overall after a second-round 69 -- but still tied for eighth.
Patrick Cantlay, the No. 1-ranked amateur in the country, has had a quiet first two rounds at the Amateur, but is safely into match play at 2-under par, in a tie for 31st.
Among the players who won’t extend their stay in Wisconsin are Luke Guthrie, who had a stellar junior season at Illinois; Brad Benjamin, the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links winner; David Chung, last year’s U.S. Amateur runner-up, who withdrew before Round 2 with food poisoning; and Ben An, the 2009 U.S. Amateur champ, who pulled out with a back injury.