Thomas slides into U.S. Am match play

Justin Thomas lines up a putt with some help from his caddie Michael Grellar during the 112th U. S. Amateur Championship at Cherry Hills.

Justin Thomas lines up a putt with some help from his caddie Michael Grellar during the 112th U. S. Amateur Championship at Cherry Hills.

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – Justin Thomas started Tuesday challenging for medalist honors after a first-round 65 at CommonGround Golf Course. Ten holes into Tuesday’s round, he was just worried about making the match-play cut. He shot 5 over on Cherry Hills’ back nine – his first nine of the day – then made triple bogey on No. 1 to go 8 over for the round and 3 over for the tournament (the cut fell at 2 over). Thomas played his final seven holes in 5 under to shoot 74, though.

“It was embarrassing," said Thomas, an Alabama sophomore from Goshen, Ky. "I wasn’t going to let a 10-hole stretch ruin my chances at the U.S. Amateur."

He hit his approach shot to 12 feet on the third hole, then made eagle on the par-5 fifth hole after hitting his wedge shot to 8 feet. He hit his tee shot on the 165-yard, par-3 sixth hole to 6 inches for another birdie, then made a 30-footer on his final hole.

“I’m going to try to ride this momentum,” said Thomas, this year’s Haskins Award winner. “I just love this tournament.”

And he extended his stay here with an incredible rally.

• • •

TOP DOG: Chris Williams, the world’s No. 1 amateur, shot 65-73 to tie for seventh in stroke play. “I just wanted to survive,” Williams said. “I didn’t want to do anything stupid. I didn’t really take any chances.”

Williams is coming off a recent win at the Western Amateur. If he can hold on to the No. 1 spot in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking next week, he’ll earn starts at the U.S. Open and Open Championship. Here’s how the world’s top 10 amateurs fared in U.S. Amateur stroke play:

  • 1. Chris Williams (65-73, T7)
  • 2. Hideki Matsuyama (73-72, MC)
  • 3. Jordan Spieth (69-69, T7)
  • 4. Daan Huizing (DNP)
  • 5. Justin Thomas (65-74, T13)
  • 6. Marcel Schneider (75-69, MC)
  • 7. Bobby Wyatt (64-68, 1st)
  • 8. Peter Williamson (76-67, T51)
  • 9. Patrick Rodgers (73-68, T25)
  • 10. Thomas Pieters (73-70, T51)

• • •

LONG DISTANCE: Cal’s Brandon Hagy may be the longest player remaining among the match-play participants. He’s loving the extra length that the approximately 5,400-foot altitude gave him. Hagy shot 65-72 to finish sixth in stroke play.

He drove the 394-yard, par-4 ninth hole at CommonGround in the first round with only a slight helping wind. He had a 52-degree wedge into Cherry Hills’ par-5 fifth hole Tuesday after a drive of more than 400 yards, and hit 8-iron into the par-5 11th. He reached the 17th hole with a 9-iron in a practice round.

• • •

PUTTING WORK IN: It was all about the putter for Jordan Spieth in the weeks leading to the U.S. Amateur. Spieth is trying to join Tiger Woods as the only players to win the U.S. Junior and the U.S. Amateur. Spieth, a quarterfinalist at last year’s U.S. Amateur, shot 69-69 to easily advance to match play.

“The way I’m playing I feel very confident over the ball,” said Spieth, a Texas sophomore from Dallas. “Putting will come and go throughout the week. I just have to get on a hot streak. I made a couple of 10-footers, and those were about the longest I’ve made the past two days.”

Spieth last competed at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational on July 26-29, finishing 44th after a final-round 77. He spent the past few weeks working on his putting, hitting literally thousands of putts in front of instructor Cameron McCormick.

“My putting was pretty far off when I saw (McCormick) after Columbus,” Spieth said, referring to the Web.com Tour event. “I’m starting to hit putts online. A lot of time on this Poa annua, you don’t know if it’s the green or you. I just told myself that it’s never my fault.”

• • •

SHORT SHOTS: The playoff for the final match-play spots fell at 2 over. ... Cherry Hills member Michael Schoolcraft made match play with rounds of 69-73. ... Robert Mize, who had his father, 1987 Masters champion Larry, on the bag, shot 72-81 to miss the cut. ... Andy Zhang, the 14-year-old who played this year’s U.S. Open, shot 78-82 to miss the cut. ... Dylan Crowley, the St. John’s player who had Keegan Bradley’s caddie, Steve Hale, on the bag for the U.S. Amateur, shot 84-75. ... Steve Delmar Jr. deserves credit for his perseverance. One day after shooting 86 at Cherry Hills Country Club, the Gaithersburg, Md., resident posted 67 at CommonGround. He’ll miss the cut, but at least leave with good memories.

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