Co-Medalists Advance, World Top 3 Fall at Pebble Beach Wednesday
August 15, 2018 | Pebble Beach, Calif.
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
Cole Hammer, 18, of Houston, Texas, the No. 2 seed and one of the hottest amateur players in the world, holed out a pitch shot from behind the green for an eagle on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links to clinch a 2-up victory over Alvaro Ortiz, of Mexico, on a dramatic first day of match play Wednesday in the 118th U.S. Amateur Championship.
Hammer, who won the Western Amateur 10 days ago and captured the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball with Garrett Barber in May, joined co-medalist Daniel Hillier, 20, of New Zealand, in overcoming deficits to advance to the Round of 32. Hillier trailed No. 64 seed Jacob Bergeron, of Slidell, La., by two holes early before rallying for a 3-and-2 win over Bergeron, who survived a 24-for-1 playoff on Wednesday morning to snag the final berth in the 64-player match-play bracket.
Jackson Van Paris, 14, became the youngest player to win a match since Bob Jones, the nine-time USGA champion who was about 6 months younger than Van Paris when he prevailed in a match in 1916. Van Paris, of Pinehurst, N.C., chipped in for birdie on No. 18 to edge Dylan Perry, of Australia, 1 up.
Hammer was 1 down to Ortiz, 22, a two-time runner-up in the Latin America Amateur Championship, after 13 holes. But the incoming freshman at the University of Texas played the final five holes in 4 under par to move on to the Round of 32. Two rounds of match play will be contested on Thursday, reducing the field to eight players.
The top three in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – No. 1 Braden Thornberry, No. 2 Justin Suh and No. 3 Collin Morikawa – all were eliminated on Wednesday. Thornberry, 21, a member of the 2017 USA Walker Cup Team, dropped a 2-and-1 decision to Jesus Montenegro, 21, of Argentina, who is No. 998 in the world and a sophomore at Jacksonville (Ala) State.
“I started well the first few holes where you can be a little bit nervous, and after that, I started to play my game and my plan,” said Montenegro, who is competing in his first USGA championship. “I knew it was going to be really hard to beat him, but I just made it.”.
Morikawa, also a member of the winning 2017 USA Walker Cup Team, lost to John Augenstein, of Owensboro, Ky., in 19 holes, while Suh lost to Harrison Ott, of Brookfield, Wis., 1 up.
Fourteen of the 32 first-round matches reached the dramatic par-5 18th at Pebble Beach or beyond, with one match going 23 holes. Trey Winstead, of Baton Rouge, La., won holes 16-18 to force extra holes against Raul Pereda, of Mexico, but lost to a par on the par-3 fifth hole. It tied for the longest match in the U.S. Amateur since 1998, when J.J. Henry prevailed over Tom Johnson in 25 holes.
Zheng Kai Bai of the People’s Republic of China made a hole-in-one on Pebble Beach’s iconic 7th hole on the way to a 4-and-3 victory over Travis Vick, of Houston, Texas, while Brad Tilley, 35, of Easton, Conn., became the oldest player in the bracket to advance to the Round of 32 by defeating 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Akshay Bhatia, 16, of Wake Forest, N.C., in 19 holes.
Two rounds of match play will be contested on Thursday, beginning at 8 a.m. PDT with the first of 16 Round of 32 matches. The Round of 32 will be streamed live from 3 to 5 p.m. EDT on usga.org. The winners of those matches advance to the Round of 16 on Thursday afternoon, with those matches being shown from 7 to 10 p.m. EDT on FS1.
- The four U.S. Junior Amateur semifinalists all reached the Round of 64, but three of them were eliminated on Wednesday. Runner-up Akshay Bhatia, champion Michael Thorbjornsen and semifinalist Cameron Sisk all lost, while Cole Hammer, who fell to Bhatia in the semifinals at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., was the lone winner.
- McClure Meissner defeated Brad Dalke, the 2016 U.S. Amateur runner-up, 1 up, in a seesaw match in which a hole was not halved until No. 15. Meissner won eight holes and Dalke seven. Meissner, of San Antonio, Texas, sealed his win when the players halved Nos. 17 and 18 with pars.
- Zheng Kai “Bobby” Bai of the People’s Republic of China aced the 112-yard No. 7 with a 56-degree wedge. “It was fun to have that hole-in-one on the most beautiful par-3 here,” said Bai. It is the second known ace on the hole during a USGA championship and the eighth of Bai’s career. Todd Fischer scored an ace there in the second round of the 2000 U.S. Open.
- Brothers Trevor and Trent Phillips of Inman, S.C., both won their first-round matches. They are the first brothers to advance to match play since Graham and Matt Hill of Canada did so in the 2008 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst. Both Hill brothers also won their first-round matches.
- Viktor Hovland of Norway and his Oklahoma State teammate Hayden Wood faced off on Wednesday, with Cowboys’ coach Alan Bratton serving as Hovland’s caddie. Hovland won the match, 3 and 2, over Wood, 22, whose father Willie Wood, was an Oklahoma State golfer and the winner of the 1977 U.S. Junior Amateur.
- Jacob Bergeron earned the final spot in match play in a 24-for-1 playoff that took approximately 90 minutes. Bergeron defeated Peter Kuest on the second playoff hole after they were the lone pair to birdie the par-3 17th, the first playoff hole. Bergeron prevailed with a bogey on the par-5 18th.
- Three of the four USGA champions remaining in the field won their Round-of-64 matches: 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad; 2018 U.S. Amateur-Four Ball champion Cole Hammer and 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Noah Goodwin. Michael Thorbjornsen, the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, was eliminated.
Co-medalist Daniel Hillier of New Zealand on whether he felt pressure as the No. 1 seed:
“I'd be lying if I said no. But after the slow start, I managed to put a good roll on a putt on the fifth hole, and that calmed the nerves and let me get into a bit of a rhythm, which was nice.”
Co-medalist Cole Hammer of Houston, Texas, on his chip-in eagle on the 18th hole:
“This is the first time I've ever been to Pebble Beach. To hit a shot like I did on the last hole was really unbelievable. I've seen so many greats like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer come down the stretch and do amazing things, and to pull something off like that out of the rough, out of a tough lie, needing at least a birdie, was pretty special and something I'll remember for a long time.”
Shintaro Ban of San Jose, Calif., on his comeback 1-up win over Skip Berkmeyer:
“At one point it did seem like the match was in his favor. But just kind of stuck to the basics with some swing thoughts and started hitting a little few greens, and then after that, the short game kind of took care of itself. My last eight holes were 4 under. Having a strong comeback like that, couldn't ask for better.”