University Place, Wash. – Scott Langley, the reigning NCAA Division I champion, won his first-round match Wednesday afternoon in the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay, outlasting pesky senior Tim Jackson in a classic battle of age and style, but with equal amounts of substance supplied by both men.
It took 19 holes, but the high-flying 21-year-old Langley and his high ball flight outlasted the cagey 51-year-old Jackson, converting a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 first hole to advance to the round of 32, where he will meet 2008 U.S. Amateur semifinalist Patrick Reed of Augusta, Ga., a 1-up winner over Daniel Zuluaga.
As soon as I saw Tim’s name, I knew I was going to have to play well to beat him, said Langley, a St. Louis resident who will be a senior this fall at the University of Illinois. We had quite the match. We both played awesome.
Even if they did play different games.
Jackson, a two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who qualified for the Amateur as the low amateur at last month’s U.S. Senior Open at nearby Sahalee Country Club, figured to be at a disadvantage not only by giving away 30 years and some distance off the tee, but also by having to attack the firm greens at dried out Chambers Bay with a lower ball flight.
But Jackson, medalist at last year’s U.S. Amateur at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., didn’t quite see it that way.
This golf course was an advantage to me to play here and use my experience, said Jackson, a two-time USA Walker Cup participant. I can flight the ball lower, take spin off it. Lower trajectory and a little more control helps you here. Off the tee doesn’t affect me too much. I can chase it out there in these conditions.
Early on Jackson looked like he might chase Langley out of the championship, taking a 2-up lead through seven after sinking a monster 60-foot birdie putt. He had gone 1-up with a birdie at No. 5 after Langley missed birdies on each of the first three holes.
I had chances to take the lead early on, and I didn’t take advantage of it, said Langley. I certainly would have liked to have had a shorter match and save some energy.
But Langley, who followed up his NCAA victory with an impressive tie for 16th in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links (shared low-amateur honors with Russell Henley), won three of four holes starting with a 3 at the downhill par-3 ninth. He squared the match with a 5-foot birdie at No. 11. A two-putt par from 24 feet at the 13th – after both men made birdie at the 304-yard, par-4 12th – got Langley out in front.
Jackson squared things with a two-putt par at the 14th after Langley drove into a waste area and needed three to reach the green. But the Germantown, Tenn., resident misjudged the distance at the downhill par-3 17th and bogeyed to fall one back again.
Going back to 17, that was the key, said Jackson, who bounced his tee shot over the green with a pitching wedge and then couldn’t get up and down. We just misread how far the shot played. We thought it was 130; it was 120.
He didn’t misread his crucial 8-foot par putt at 18, however. Langley and Jackson both hit their approaches into the greenside bunker, and after Langley missed from 25 feet, Jackson nailed his putt to send the match into extra holes.
Langley wasted no time in ending the proceedings with his wedge shot from 113 yards and one putt. When the ball dove in, Langley pumped his fist once emphatically.
I wish we’d met deeper into the draw, but that’s the way it goes, said Jackson, who still has two USGA events remaining on his 2010 schedule, the Men’s State Team Championship and the U.S. Mid-Amateur. You hate losing. Scott played well. We both had our chances. It came down to a putt; that’s fun. I’d like to be on the top side of that, but looking back, I hit a lot of good shots. I competed well. That’s the fun part – to still be competitive at my age.
Jackson might have thought the venue favored his style, but Langley was no less comfortable, having gotten a taste of links golf in June when he represented the U.S. in the Palmer Cup at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
It’s the same kind of golf except over there it’s a little softer than here, Langley said with a small laugh. It’s the same kind of golf; you’ve got to really think your way around and land shots short of the green and run them up, play using mounds and everything. It helped definitely. I heard guys say they never played any golf like this, and I have played golf like this before.
He’ll need more good golf going forward; he was certain of that, too.
It’s been a good summer for me; I’ve been working really hard, said Langley, who lost in the round of 32 at last month’s U.S. Amateur Public Links. I have another tough match tomorrow, I am sure. That’s the way this tournament is. There are so many good players and the make it through. I’m just glad that (last) putt went in.
Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA championship Web sites.