Five Things to Watch: First Round of Match Play May 23, 2016 | MAMARONECK, N.Y. By Joey Flyntz, USGA

Returning U.S. Amateur Four-Ball semifinalists Todd Mitchell (left) and Scott Harvey could have an advantage in match play at Winged Foot. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

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After the sides of Sean Maruyama and Clay Seeber, and Sachin Kumar and Alberto Martinez advanced from Monday morning’s 6-for-2 playoff, the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball field has been pared from 128 to 32 sides for match play, being conducted on the East Course. Here are five things to watch as the field is trimmed to 16:

Four-Ball-Specific Strategy

Four-ball match play differs from individual match play from a strategic standpoint, something that could play into the hands of experienced mid-amateur teams.

For example, sides experienced can be wily, such as conceding an opponent’s putt so he can’t give his partner a free look at the line. Four-ball rewards judicious aggression; a veteran side can back off from the go-for-broke style that younger players might have a hard time resisting.

“There is a lot of strategy involved. Playing an individual event is one thing, but in this, partners have to make adjustments,” said Randy Haag earlier in the week. “But the young guys are pretty confident; they just get up and hit their driver. They might be more prone to making some team bogeys by being aggressive. But let’s be realistic: The cream usually rises to the top. Strategy is great, but you still have to hit the shots.”

Experience vs. Youth

Speaking of four-ball strategy and the potential advantage of the mid-amateur sides, the first-round matchup of Scott Harvey and Todd Mitchell against Maruyama and Seeber may be the ultimate litmus test of this theory.

Harvey, 37, of Greensboro, N.C., is the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, and Mitchell, 37, of Bloomington, Ill., is the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up. Together, they made the semifinals of last year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at The Olympic Club.

Maruyama and Seeber are both 15-year-old Southern California kids who advanced on the second playoff hole Monday morning when Maruyama, the son of former PGA Tour player Shigeki Maruyama, holed out from 119 yards for eagle.

However, Maruyama and Seeber don’t think their age will be a detriment.

“We don’t feel out of place. We feel comfortable,” said Maruyama. “I don’t think we have a disadvantage or anything because of our age.”

Home Game for Young

The side of Wake Forest teammates Paul McBride, 20, of the Republic of Ireland, and Cameron Young, 19, of Scarborough, N.Y., may have home-field advantage on their side.

Young grew up about 25 minutes away from Winged Foot and has played the East Course numerous times in high school at Fordham Prep and in several Metropolitan Golf Association events.

That local knowledge may come in handy against the formidable mid-amateur duo of Patrick Christovich, 37, of New Orleans, La., and Garret Rank, 28, of Canada. Christovich was a quarterfinalist in the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur and Rank was runner-up in the 2012 Mid-Amateur and advanced to match play in last year’s U.S. Amateur.

Smith and White Begin Title Defense

The defending champion side of Nathan Smith, 37, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Todd White, 48, of Spartanburg, S.C., begin their title defense at 11:12 a.m. EDT against Matthew Finger and Michael Korcuba.

Smith and White shot 5-under 135 to comfortably qualify for match play, but their opponents come in with lots of momentum on their side. Finger, 38, of Woolwich Township, N.J., and Korcuba, 46, of Sicklerville, N.J., shot 8-under 62 on Sunday, 10 strokes better than in Saturday’s opening round of stroke play.

Key Stretch on Inward Nine

The opening three holes on the inward nine of Winged Foot’s East Course could play a pivotal role in match play, as scoring opportunities abound.

Holes 10, 11 and 12 ranked as the second-easiest, third-easiest and easiest holes, respectively, in stroke play. The tees on 10 and 11 could be moved up to create drivable par 4s, an enticing risk-reward strategy in match play. No. 12 is a par 5 that yielded 53 birdies and an eagle, compared to only 26 bogeys or worse.

Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at jflyntz@usga.org.

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