Five Things to Watch: Round 2 of Stroke Play May 22, 2016 | MAMARONECK, N.Y. By Joey Flyntz, USGA

The West Course at Winged Foot Golf Club played 2.2 strokes harder than the East Course in Round 1 of stroke play of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

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The second round of stroke play has begun in the 2nd U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship on the East and West courses at Winged Foot Golf Club. The field will be cut from 128 sides to 32 for match play, which begins on Monday. Here are five things to watch as the field is pared down:

Defending Champs Looking to Punch Ticket

Highlighted by a hole-in-one from Todd White, 48, of Spartanburg, S.C., the defending champion side of White and Nathan Smith, 37, of Pittsburgh, Pa., posted a strong 3-under-par 67 showing on the West Course on Saturday.

While the side’s strong showing on the more difficult West Course should put them in a good position to earn their way into the match-play field, they will still need to keep pace in the second round with the low scores that are being posted on the East Course.

Meanwhile, last year’s runners-up, Sherrill Britt and Greg Earnhardt, shot an even-par 70 on the East Coast in the first round and will have to make up a lot of ground to qualify for match play. The other returning semifinalist side of Scott Harvey and Todd Mitchell enters the day in good shape following a 5-under 65 on the East Course in Round 1.

Experience Paying Off for Three Returning Sides

Of the 13 sides that competed in last year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at The Olympic Club, three sides that missed match play last year appear to be in good position entering play on Sunday.

The trio is highlighted by the side of Drew Allenspach, 29, of Louisville, Ky., and Matthew Van Zandt, 30, of Houston, Texas. The duo shot even par last year but fired an impressive 7-under 63 on the West Course on Saturday.

“Last year, we made two total birdies between us over 36 holes. We learned last year that par is a good score and when one player is out of the hole, just play to the middle of the green,” said Van Zandt. “Last year, we were too aggressive at times when we really didn’t need to be.”

The side of Brandon Matthews, 21, of Dupont, Pa., and Patrick Ross, 24, of Dunmore, Pa., also shot even par last year and opened with a 63 Saturday at Winged Foot, although they did so on the East Course.

Jeffrey Castle, 32, of Parkville, Md., and Christopher Baloga, 32, of Baltimore, Md., shot 2-under 68 on the East Course on Saturday after missing the cut at even par last year.

Advantage: East Course on Sunday

While both the East and West courses at Winged Foot are challenging, the West is a five-time U.S. Open venue and known as one of the most difficult setups in the country. The West lived up to its reputation on Saturday, playing 2.2 strokes harder on average and yielding 154 birdies compared to 248 on the East Course. Of the top 10 finishers in Round 1, only the side Allenspach and Van Zandt played the West Course. That would figure to be a major advantage for them on Sunday as far as contending for medalist honors.

Crowded at the Cut Line

Entering play on Saturday, 16 sides were tied for 31st place at 2 under par. With 32 sides advancing to match play, the competition for the final match-play berths figures to be fierce. With 10 additional sides entering the day 1 under par, there should be no shortage of drama as the final sides finish late in the day.

Optimal Scoring Conditions Continue

The first round of stroke play presented perfect scoring conditions, at least as much as possible at Winged Foot, with overcast skies and little to no wind. With overnight rain and more overcast conditions expected on Sunday, there should be more good scores posted on cut day.

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

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