U.S. Junior: Hossler top seed for match play

Beau Hossler enters match play at the U.S. Junior as the top seed after a stellar opening two rounds in Bremerton, Wash.

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BREMERTON, Wash. – No player has scored better through two rounds at the U.S. Junior Amateur than 16-year-old Beau Hossler, which naturally has its perks. The No. 1 overall seed. The intimidation factor. The confidence. Trouble is, Wednesday marks the start of the match-play portion of this national championship – and few players have as little match-play experience as Hossler.

Amazingly, his only match-play event was the 2010 AJGA Polo Junior, where in the first round he faced off against Anthony Paolucci, then-ranked No. 1 in the country, and lost, 2 and 1.

“So, I’m 0-for-1,” Hossler quipped.

Yet you can’t shake the feeling that his record soon will be much improved. He’s striking the ball beautifully, and through two rounds at Gold Mountain he can’t recall missing a putt inside 15 feet. Hossler’s play off the tee, however, is quite another matter. On Monday, he called it “pretty grotesque to watch.” Tuesday, he begrudgingly said he’s “gotten away with a few drives.” And still, he shot 68-67, good for medalist honors, and he’s one of only seven players to finish 36 holes under par.

“I think I’ve hit it off the shaft three times,” said Hossler, who qualified for this year’s U.S. Open at Congressional. “It’s like a spinny slice.”

Despite his limited match-play experience, Hossler at least said the right things after his round Tuesday.

Asked about his game plan for Wednesday, he replied, without hesitation: “Make birdies.”

Well, yes, but is it a different mind-set knowing you’re the guy to beat?

“It doesn’t mean anything that I just shot 9 under for two rounds,” said Hossler, of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. “It means I’m going to be playing the guy I’m playing tomorrow, and I need to go out there and beat him.”

The question about Hossler’s winless match-play record was answered perhaps most resoundingly by another player – one with authority on the subject.

Said Jordan Spieth, the 2009 U.S. Junior Champ: “That’ll change here, I promise you.”

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