PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Less than a month removed from his U.S. Junior Amateur victory at Baltusrol, Michael Thorbjornsen kept his hopes of winning a second straight U.S. Golf Association championship alive Monday at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Thorbjornsen, 16, shot 1-under 70 in the first round of stroke-play qualifying for the U.S. Amateur.
He made a double bogey at the par-4 11th after hitting his tee ball out of bounds to the right. Birdies at Nos. 6, 9 and 14 helped him stay under par.
“I definitely knew when to attack and when to just hold back and take the par,” Thorbjornsen said. “But I felt like I played pretty solid. I probably shot the best I could with the way that I played. Normally, it’s a little bit different.”
Thorbjornsen said winning the U.S. Junior hasn’t changed him as a person. But as a golfer, it’s given him more confidence.
“I do feel that winning the tournament was really something that I needed,” Thorbjornsen said. “Doing it on one of the biggest stages. It was a huge confidence boost. Makes me feel like I can play as well anywhere.”
And he wasn’t the only U.S. Junior finalist to post red numbers Monday at Pebble. Fellow 16-year-old Akshay Bhatia, whom Thorbjornsen beat in the final at Baltusrol, also shot 70.
“I definitely could have shot like 7 under today with the way I was hitting it,” said Bhatia, who made five birdies in his opening round, only to give shots back with a double on the par-4 second, which is a converted par 5, and bogeys at Nos. 6 and 10.
Even Cameron Sisk, a U.S. Junior semifinalist, played well. He shot 2-under 70 at Spyglass Hill.
Surprised? Don’t be. Junior golf is the best it’s ever been.
“All the tournaments we’ve been playing, especially on the AJGA, they are very competitive,” Thorbjornsen said. “We’re really pushing each other to our limits.”