Some surprises on Walker Cup watch list

Patrick Cantlay at the Travelers Championship

Patrick Cantlay at the Travelers Championship

I don't envy the USGA's Walker Cup selectors. This is turning into one tight race. Several surprising players, like U.S. Amateur Public Links champ Corbin Mills, are coming on strong, while some early favorites to make the team are struggling with their games. Here's the latest edition of Golfweek's Walker Cup Watch List, through July 10. Remember, this list isn't a ranking of the game's hottest players. It ranks Walker Cup candidates based on the criteria the USGA uses when picking the team. The USGA looks at results over a two-year period, with an emphasis on amateur results and finishes in USGA events.

(*-attended Walker Cup practice session)

• • •

1. Patrick Cantlay, Los Alamitos, Calif. (UCLA)*

Last ranked: T-1

Recent results: Won, Southern California Amateur; T-20, AT&T National (third consecutive top 25 on PGA Tour)

The skinny: Nice win by Cantlay at the Southern California Amateur, shooting 65-66 on the weekend. Winning when you're such a heavy favorite is an admirable task, especially after playing three consecutive PGA Tour events.

• • •

2. Peter Uihlein, Orlando, Fla. (Oklahoma State)*

Last ranked: T-1

Recent results: T-70, AT&T National; Won, Northeast Amateur

The skinny: Uihlein spent this past week preparing for the British Open, including a scouting trip to Walker Cup site Royal Aberdeen. He's made the cut in two Tour events this year, but will be trying to play the weekend in a major for the first time.

•••

3. Russell Henley, Macon, Ga. (Georgia)*

Last ranked: 3

Recent results: T-20, Dogwood Invitational

The skinny: Henley’s U.S. Open finish wasn’t as strong as last year, but he did get inside the top 10 on the weekend. He and Cantlay teamed at the Palmer Cup. Could they do it again at Aberdeen?

•••

4. Nathan Smith, Pittsburgh (Mid-Am)*

Last ranked: 4

Recent results: Won, Sunnehanna Amateur

The skinny: Smith’s case for inclusion on this year’s team was built on his three U.S. Mid-Am victories and appearance on the 2009 Walker Cup team. After beating a bunch of the country’s best “kids” at the Sunnehanna, he now seems like a lock.

•••

5. Harris English, Thomasville, Ga. (Georgia)*

Last ranked: 10

Recent results: Semifinals, U.S. Amateur Public Links; T-3, U.S. Amateur Public Links stroke play; T-13, Northeast Amateur

The skinny: English is extremely popular with his potential teammates, which helps his cause. He’s playing well enough to make the team, as well. He proved that point again by making the semis at the U.S. Amateur Public Links. He's a strong match-play player.

• • •

6. David Chung, Fayetteville, N.C. (Stanford)*

Last ranked: 5

Recent results: T-28, Northeast Amateur

The skinny: Chung hasn't been up to last year's standard, but that season, and the fact that he represented the United States at the World Amateur Team Championship, makes him a very strong candidate.

• • •

7. John Peterson, Fort Worth, Texas (LSU)

Last ranked: 7

Recent results: 15th, Players Amateur; Round of 32, U.S. Amateur Public Links

The skinny: Peterson started this year on the outskirts of the Walker Cup landscape. No one has won bigger titles in 2011, though. He won both the NCAA Championship and Jones Cup.

• • •

8. Blayne Barber, Lake City, Fla. (Auburn)*

Last ranked: 9

Recent results: 3rd, Northeast Amateur

The skinny: Barber is amateur golf’s Mr. Consistency. Another summer like the one he had in 2010 could get him on the team. Third at the Northeast Amateur was a strong showing. He's another player that is well-liked by his teammates and seems to fit the USGA mold.

• • •

9. James White, Acworth, Ga. (Georgia Tech)

Last ranked: 11

Recent results: 5th, Players Amateur; 2nd, Northeast Amateur; T-8, Sunnehanna Amateur

The skinny: White, a first-team All-American, has come on strong with top 10s at the NCAA East Regional, NCAA Championship, Sunnehanna, Northeast and Players.

• • •

10. Jordan Spieth, Dallas (Texas)*

Last ranked: 8

Recent results: T-41, Northeast Amateur; T-17, Sunnehanna Amateur

The skinny: Spieth is best known for his strong play in the past two Byron Nelson Championships. He's also a former U.S. Junior champ whose resume is bolstered by strong showings at this year's Jones Cup and Azalea. His summer schedule has been limited as he readies for college.

• • •

ON THE BUBBLE

11. Corbin Mills, Easley, S.C. (Clemson)

Last ranked: NR

Recent results: Won, Players Amateur; Won, U.S. Amateur Public Links; Medalist, U.S. Amateur Public Links

The skinny: Mills wasn't even on the Walker Cup radar entering the U.S. Amateur Public Links. Then he won the Publinks and Players Am in consecutive weeks. Fewer players will win bigger titles this year. Mills has two things hurting his candidacy, though. The USGA doesn't hold its own Publinks in the highest regard. Ask Brandt Snedeker. Also, Mills had achieved little of note before these two victories.

• • •

12. Patrick Rodgers, Avon, Ind.

Last ranked: 13

Recent results: T-2, Players Amateur; 4th, Northeast Amateur

The skinny: Rodgers may be the hidden gem of this Class of 2011. The incoming Stanford freshman doesn't get as much attention as Jordan Spieth or Anthony Paolucci, but he's making a strong run at this year's Walker Cup team. He seems to be in contention every time he plays.

• • •

13. Chris Williams, Moscow, Idaho

Last ranked: NR

Recent results: Won, Sahalee Players Championship; Round of 32, U.S. Amateur Public Links; MC, U.S. Open

The skinny: Williams is the Pacific Northwest's leading candidate to make the Walker Cup team. The Sahalee Players victory and qualifying for the U.S. Open were nice boosts to his resume.

• • •

14. Scott Langley, Manchester, Mo. (Illinois)*

Last ranked: 5

Recent results: MC, John Deere Classic; MC, Dogwood Invitational

The skinny: Langley is a class act, and a player the USGA would like to have on the team. Unfortunately, he's in the middle of some deep struggles. He finished last at the John Deere by six shots (76-83). He missed the cut at the Dogwood by 23 shots, beating just four players in the field and finishing a stroke behind Arizona coach Rick LaRose. Langley finished 129th in the NCAA Championship, including a second-round 86. He will rise rapidly in the Walker Cup rankings if he starts to turn his game around.

•••

15. Andrew Putnam, University Place, Wash. (Pepperdine)*

Last ranked: 14

Recent results: T-4, Sahalee Players Championship; 10th, Northeast Amateur; T-17, Sunnehanna Amateur

The skinny: His older brother, Michael, played on the 2005 Walker Cup team. Andrew has some work to do this summer, but is still a strong candidate. He participated in the Walker Cup practice session earlier this year.

•••

Others to watch (alphabetical order):

Brad Benjamin; J.T. Griffin; Luke Guthrie; John Hahn; Gregor Main; Cameron Peck; Jordan Russell; Justin Thomas; Bank Vongvanij; Cory Whitsett; Bobby Wyatt; Andrew Yun

•••

Opting out (turning professional):

• Bud Cauley*, Jacksonville, Fla. (Alabama)

• Morgan Hoffmann, Wyckoff, N.J. (Oklahoma State)

• Lion Kim, Lake Mary, Fla. (Michigan)

• Patrick Reed*, Martinez, Ga. (Augusta State)

• Kevin Tway, Edmond, Okla. (Oklahoma State)

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