Jacob Bergeron earns final match-play spot in thrilling U.S. Amateur playoff

Oct 24, 2017; Windermere, FL, USA; LSU's Jacob Bergeron walks off of the third green during the final round of the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational golf tournament at the Isleworth Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Jacob Bergeron earns final match-play spot in thrilling U.S. Amateur playoff

Amateur

Jacob Bergeron earns final match-play spot in thrilling U.S. Amateur playoff

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – You could say Jacob Bergeron has a love-hate relationship with his 4-iron. But on Wednesday morning at Pebble Beach, that club helped him keep his U.S. Amateur title hopes alive.

As he warmed up for Wednesday morning’s 24-for-1 playoff for the final match-play spot, Bergeron hit a “solid bucket” of 4-irons to prepare for the 220-yard shot he’d face on the first playoff hole, Pebble’s difficult par-3 17th.

The practice paid off. Playing in the third of six foursomes, Bergeron stuck his tee shot to about 5 feet and made the first birdie of the playoff, eliminating 11 players with one stroke of his putter, including Vanderbilt’s Patrick Martin, Oklahoma’s Garett Reband and Illinois’ Michael Feagles.

“It was pretty quiet (on the tee),” Bergeron said. “You almost had the sense that everybody was kind of holding their breath a little bit. They didn’t really know what to expect. Twenty-four guys for one spot. Who’s ever heard of that?”

After BYU’s Peter Kuest, the last player to tee it up in the playoff, added a birdie of his own from 10 feet to send the playoff to the par-5 18th, Bergeron hit driver after a lengthy wait and then 4-iron again from 195 yards.

This time, though, Bergeron flared his shot behind the tall cypress tree that guards the front-left portion of the green.

“It wasn’t a good shot,” Bergeron said. “… It was just stuck from the inside and wiped.”

But Kuest soon bailed Bergeron out, hooking a 6-iron into the retaining wall and then into the Pacific Ocean. After a brief search, Kuest opted to drop in the drop zone and try to stick a wedge close. Bergeron, meanwhile, had chipped out from behind the tree.

“I thought I had a pretty good chance of making 5 from the drop zone,” Kuest said.

Only Kuest’s wedge shot didn’t carry enough and spun back off the front of the green. He chipped on and three-putted for triple-bogey-8. Bergeron won the hole with a bogey to earn the 64th seed for match play.

Bergeron, a 20-year-old Slidell, La., who competed in this year’s U.S. Open and plans to turn pro later this year, will now play Daniel Hillier in the Round of 64 at 2:10 p.m. Wednesday.

“To wake up this morning knowing that you could be that one guy, it’s exciting,” Bergeron said. “But at the same time it could be a little nerve-racking. You just have to be able to handle those nerves and just treat it like it’s any other round, just go take dead aim and go balls out.”

As he moves on to match play, Bergeron will continue to welcome the challenge of the pressure cooker that is the U.S. Amateur. More shots like the one he hit on No. 17 – with his 4-iron – will help, too.

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