U.S. Walker Cuppers lead charge into Am quarters
ERIN, Wis. – Three players already named to this year’s U.S. Walker Cup team -- Peter Uihlein, Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Rodgers -- lead the charge into Friday afternoon’s quarterfinal round in the 111th U.S. Amateur Championship at Erin Hills Golf Club.
Uihlein, the defending U.S. Amateur champ, kept his hopes alive to become the first player to repeat since Tiger Woods won three in a row (1994-96) when he turned back 2010 NCAA winner Scott Langley, 2 and 1.
Cantlay, the world’s top amateur and the freshman and player of the year last season at UCLA, downed Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team member Tom Lewis, 3 and 1.
Rodgers, an incoming Stanford freshman, cruised past Korea’s Sunil Jung, 4 and 3.
Uihlein, the 2011 Ben Hogan Award winner and member of the 2009 winning U.S. Walker Cup team when he went 4-0-0, took a 3-up lead with an eagle on the par-5 seventh hole. But Langley, who tied for 16th at the 2010 U.S. Open, battled back and won No. 8 with a birdie, 9 with a par, and squared the match with a par at the 11th.
Uihlein got back on top by winning 12 and 15 with pars, but Langley won 16 with a birdie only to have Uihlein close it out with a hole-winning par on 17.
Lewis jumped out to a 2-up lead after four holes, but Cantlay came back and made it all-square by winning Nos. 5 and 6. Lewis won the seventh with a birdie and Cantlay the eighth with birdie.
Cantlay then won 11, 12 and 13 with two birdies and a par to go 3-up. After Lewis won 16 with a birdie, Cantlay ended things with a par at 17.
Rodgers, winner of the Porter Cup this summer, took control of his match early, winning Nos. 5, 6, 8 and 9 to go 4-up. Jung won the 12th with a par, but Rodgers answered by winning 13 with a birdie. The match ended when they halved 15 with birdies.
Also advancing to the quarterfinals:
• Two-time (2009 and 2011) U.S. Junior Amateur champion Jordan Spieth put his game in high gear and rolled to a 7-and-5 victory over Ben Geyer. Spieth, hoping to land one of the final three spots in this year’s U.S. Walker Cup team, won the first two holes and was 5-up at the turn after winning Nos. 6, 8 and 9. He won the 11th with a par and closed out the match by winning the 13th with a birdie.
• England’s Jack Senior, a member of this year’s GB&I Walker Cup squad, defeated recent Kent State graduate John Hahn, 3 and 2. The two were all square through seven holes before Senior won No. 8 with a birdie and 10 with a par. He closed it out with a birdie at the 16th.
• Max Buckley, a senior at SMU, drained a 20-foot birdie putt on the 19th hole to edge U.S. Walker Cup hopeful John Peterson, who missed an eight-footer that would have kept the match going.
Buckley won the first three holes, but Peterson, a recent LSU graduate, battled back and won Nos. 4, 6 and 7 to square the match. Buckley won No. 8 and 12 to go 2-up, a lead he had through 15 holes. But again Peterson, who last month finished second in a Nationwide Tour event, showed his grit and came back and won 16 with a birdie and 17 with a par.
• Jordan Russell, a senior at Texas A&M, ended Bobby Leopold’s Cinderella run and eliminated the lone mid-amateur left in the field on the 19th hole.
Russell was 3 up after eight holes, but Leopold surged back. The 26-year-old insurance agent from Cranston, R.I., won holes 9, 10 and 11 with pars to square the match, then took his first lead with a birdie at the 12th.
Russell sent the match into extra holes with a birdie at the 18th and won it one hole later with a par.
• In the longest match thus far in this year’s championship, Kelly Kraft, a recent graduate of SMU, made par on the 23rd hole (par-4, fifth hole) to edge Blake Biddle.
Kraft, who won the Trans-Mississippi Amateur this summer, won the first hole with a birdie and the third with a bogey to go 2-up. Biddle, the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year last season at UNLV, came back to win the ninth with a bogey and 10th with a par. Kraft went back on top with a par at the 15th, but Biddle kept the match going by winning 18 with a birdie.