U.S. Amateur Thursday: Five Things to Know
August 15, 2018 | Pebble Beach, Calif.
By Mike Trostel, USGA
Robert Louis Stevenson called Pebble Beach “the most felicitous meeting of land and sea.” After two days of clouds and fog, the sun finally broke through on Wednesday and the course’s beauty was on full display. The day started with a 24-for-1 playoff and ended with 32 players maintaining hope that their name could be the latest engraved on the Havemeyer Trophy.
Twenty-four more competitors will be headed home by day’s end on Thursday when two rounds of match play are contested on the venerable Jack Neville and Douglas Grant layout.
Live streaming of the Round of 32 begins at 3 p.m. EDT on usga.org, and FS1 will have live coverage of the Round of 16 beginning 7 p.m. EDT.
So with the Round of 32 set to commence, here are five things to watch:
Medalists as Marked Men
It has been five years since the stroke-play medalist has advanced past the Round of 32. Co-medalist and No. 1 seed Daniel Hillier, 20, of New Zealand, is playing in his first USGA championship in just his second trip to the United States. Cole Hammer, 18, may be younger, but has an edge in experience, playing in his eighth USGA championship. He won the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, with partner Garrett Barber, in May. We’ll see if Hillier and Hammer, co-medalist at 6-under 137 and the No. 2 seed, have better luck than Hayden Wood (2017), Alex Smalley (2016), Brett Coletta (2015) or Lee McCoy and Taylor Moore (2014 co-medalists) in their Round-of-32 matches.
Beware the Marathon Man
Raul Pereda’s 23-hole victory over Trey Winstead may have been the most entertaining match of the day. Pereda was 4 up through 13 holes, but Winstead ripped off five consecutive birdies to force extra holes. Finally, Pereda’s par on the par-3 fifth gave him the victory. Not only did that result tie the longest match in the U.S. Amateur in the last 20 years, but two of the seven other 23-hole victors – Kelly Kraft (2011) and Jeff Quinney (2000) – went on to win the championship. Keep an eye on Pereda.
Down to the Finish
With Stillwater Cove guarding the entire left side of the hole and cypress trees to negotiate, the 545-yard 18th at Pebble Beach may be the most memorable closing hole in golf. On Wednesday, 14 of the 32 matches reached the 18th – the most since 15 matches came down to the final hole in the 2008 championship at Pinehurst. Many players hit driver on the risk-reward par 5 and were able to reach the green in two. Others, like Stewart Hagestad, who was nursing a 1-up lead, hit iron off the tee and played it as a three-shot hole. With 24 matches in play on Thursday, it will be interesting to see which competitors make it to No. 18 and what strategy they employ on the entertaining home hole.
On Wednesday, it was a clean split for the 14 players who call California home. The seven winners will continue their quest to become the first player since Nathaniel Crosby in 1981 to win the U.S. Amateur in his home state. Crosby won his title at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Of this year’s group, Shintaro Ban of San Jose is 10th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and is playing in his third U.S. Amateur. Just 75 miles from his hometown, he will likely have plenty of support on Thursday.
Champions Among Us
Three USGA champions remain alive: Noah Goodwin (2017 U.S. Junior Amateur), Hagestad (2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur) and Hammer (2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball). The last time a USGA champion advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur was Nathan Smith in 2014 at the Atlanta Athletic Club. While the 36-year-old Smith’s run was unlikely, all three of these champions have a higher World Amateur Golf Ranking than their second-round opponent. Look for at least one to survive the Thursday gauntlet at Pebble Beach and give himself a chance to become the first champion since Colt Knost in 2007 with their name already on a USGA trophy.
Michael Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.