Erin, Wis. – Peter Uihlein won his ninth consecutive U.S. Amateur match, but he was in no mood to celebrate.
After defeating Scott Langley, 2 and 1, in the Round of 16 on Friday morning at Erin Hills he hadn't lost one of his best friends, but he'd beaten one.
It was tough playing Scott, said Uihlein, who is trying to become the first player to win consecutive U.S. Amateurs since Tiger Woods (1994-96). I know how important it as for him [in terms of Walker Cup status], which just made it worse.
But I'd stick my head out for him; I'd like to see him on the team. I think he's made unbelievable strides in the past two months to get back to playing well again. It's just match play. It's unfortunate I had to play against him. But like I said, I'd stand up for him.
Uihlein already has been named to the 2011 USA Walker Cup Team, which faces Great Britain & Ireland Sept. 10-11 at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in Scotland. Langley, who was Uihlein’s teammate for the 2010 USA World Amateur Team Championship in Argentina, still hopes to get one of the three available spots on the 10-man squad.
But neither was in top form on Friday morning.
Langley took a quick 1-up lead on the first hole, one of the few times he hit a fairway. Uihlein birdied No. 2 to square things and never trailed again. But it was hardly smooth sailing.
The Oklahoma State University senior All-American collected a 3-up lead by the time he birdied No. 7. Yet he also was finding it tough to hit a fairway. He bogeyed two of the next four holes and Langley took advantage of the slide to square the match. It was a brief reprieve.
The left-handed Langley made a mess of No. 12 and eventually conceded the hole. He then bogeyed No. 15 when two consecutive approach shots rolled back off the elevated green. A St. Louis native and 2010 NCAA Division I individual champion, Langley fought back once more, landing an approach five feet from the flagstick for a birdie at the par-3 No. 16.
But after he missed the fairway again at No. 17, Langley sent a hot 7-iron flying over the green. When he couldn't get up and down from 10 feet, the match ended.
It was a scramble-fest out there, said Langley, whose 2011 season has not matched his 2010 year when he also shared low-amateur honors at the U.S. Open and advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur. And when you do that, this course is so hard. Peter and I both were off the fairway today. But I had my chances for sure. The shot at 16 was the best shot of the day. It just came off perfect, right where I was looking.
I hit the shot I wanted to, and I know I can do it under pressure. So I was pleased with that. There were some positives I can take from it.
As for Walker Cup aspirations, Langley can only cross his fingers. His 2010 resume is sterling as was his play at Erin Hills leading up to the third-round match against Uihlein. But he struggled mightily in between, failing to win a college event in his senior season.
I made a lot of progress this week, said Langley, who recently completed his collegiate career at the University of Illinois. To shoot a 63 [on Wednesday at Blue Mound Golf & Country Club] on a USGA [setup], I don't care where it is, I'm really proud of that. And to make it to the Sweet 16 after hitting rock bottom this summer, it's definitely a step in the right direction.
I knew I wasn't going to be on the team if I didn't make the cut or win some matches, for sure. Knowing that going in, I was definitely pleased with the way I played.
Walker Cup notwithstanding, Langley said he didn't need any extra incentive going into the match. After all, Uihlein is the reigning champion and No. 3 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings supported by the USGA and The R&A.
He [Uihlein] is the best player in amateur golf … it would have been a great win, Langley said. He's one of my best buddies, so it was kind of hard to play him. But we had some fun out there and in the end, he was just a little better than I was today.