Stroke Play Round 2: 5 Things to Watch For
August 15, 2017 | PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif.
By Michael Trostel, USGA
Eighteen holes down, 18 to go in the stroke-play portion of the 117th U.S. Amateur Championship. Twenty-seven players broke par on Monday at The Riviera Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club with Norman Xiong, Hayden Wood and Mark Lawrence Jr. leading the way after their 6-under 64s.
The second round of stroke play generally features equal parts excitement and anxiety as players outside the top 64 make a push for match play, while those who scored well in the first round jockey for seeding.
There are many questions still to be answered, but one thing is certain: competitors will need to maintain their poise and deliver solid rounds on Tuesday if they hope to have a chance to add their name to the Havemeyer Trophy on Sunday.
Here’s what to watch for in the second round of stroke play:
Medalist Watch: Medals are awarded to five players in the U.S. Amateur: the champion, the runner-up, the two losing semifinalists and the medalist (the low scorer after 36 holes of stroke play). However, earning medalist honors does not guarantee success in the championship – Ryan Moore was the last medalist to win the U.S. Amateur in 2004, and last year’s medalist, Alex Smalley, lost in the Round of 32. .
The Norman Invasion: Norman Xiong won the Phil Mickelson Award as Division I’s top freshman while playing at the University of Oregon this past spring. If anything, the 18-year-old from Canyon Lake, Calif., has had an even better summer, finishing tied for 11th in the Pacific Coast Amateur July 21 before winning the Western Amateur on Aug. 5. After a bogey-free, 6-under 64 at Riviera, Xiong appears in full control of his game as he attempts to become the first player since Danny Lee in 2008 to win the Western Amateur and U.S. Amateur in the same year.
Strong Starts at Bel-Air: The 6,757-yard Bel-Air Country Club more than held its own on Monday, playing to a stroke average of 74.31, but one hole that players need to take advantage of on Tuesday is the par-5 first. Playing at 500 yards, extremely short by current standards, No. 1 yielded nearly as many eagles (7) as double bogeys (9) and was the easiest hole on either course – by nearly half a stroke. In fact, its 4.46 stroke average was lower than two par 4s (No. 15 at Bel-Air and No. 12 at Riviera). With 78 players starting their rounds on No. 1 at Bel-Air on Tuesday, a birdie or eagle there could give them a much-needed boost of confidence to shoot a low round in their quest for match play.
Riviera’s Famed No. 10: One mark of a good risk-reward hole is a wide range of scores. Not surprisingly, the 10th hole gave us exactly that on Monday, yielding more birdies (35) than bogeys (28), but also forcing more double bogeys or worse (15) than any other hole at Riviera other than No. 12. At 310 yards, the 10th is tempting for players to attempt to drive, but numerous bunkers and deep rough guard this narrow green that is just 10 paces wide and slopes away from the players. Competitors were fairly split in laying up versus going for the green on Monday, but however you attack it, this hole has the potential to be the difference between making the match-play cut and going home.
Time for 2016 Stalwarts to Make a Move: If match play had started on Tuesday, none of the seven quarterfinalists from the 2016 U.S. Amateur in this year’s field would have been a lock to advance to the Round of 64. Runner-up Brad Dalke (75), semifinalists Nick Carlson (77) and Jonah Texeira (75), and quarterfinalists Dylan Meyer (75), Sahith Theegala (72), David Boote (76) and Luis Gagne (75) will all need to rally on Tuesday if they hope to replicate last year’s strong performances. Look for a couple of them to shoot rounds in the 60s and survive to Wednesday.
Michael Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.