U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
3 Things to Know: U.S. Junior Amateur Match Play
July 16, 2019 | TOLEDO, Ohio
By Mike Trostel, USGA
Survive and advance. That will be the mantra of the 64 players who have moved on to match play at the 72nd U.S. Junior Amateur at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. Their initial mission has been accomplished, but six rounds of match play, including a 36-hole championship match, stand between them and their ultimate goal:
A USGA championship title and a berth in the 120th U.S. Open Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club.
Here are three things to know for match play, which begins on Wednesday:
After rounds of 71-68, defending champion Michael Thorbjornsen remains alive in his quest to join Tiger Woods as the only players to win back-to-back Junior Amateur titles. Woods won three consecutive championships, from 1991 to 1993. Thorbjornsen made just three bogeys in stroke play, tying Karl Vilips for fewest in the field and earning the No. 5 seed. Joining Thorbjornsen in match play are last year’s runner-up Akshay Bhatia, whose 1-under-par 141 was good enough to earn him the No. 6 seed, and 2018 quarterfinalist Thomas Ponder, who chipped in for birdie on his final hole of the day to secure his spot among the final 64 players.
William Moll, William Mouw and Ricky Castillo all carded 4-under-par totals of 138 in stroke play to share medalist honors. It is the third time in championship history that three or more players have tied for the low qualifying score. And while the last time a medalist won the championship was in 2009 when Jordan Spieth captured his first of two Junior Amateur titles, it has been even longer since the medalist(s) failed to win at least one match. For that, you have to go back to 2002, when Shane Sigsbee defeated co-medalist Jarred Texter in the first round at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
As the format for the championship shifts from stroke play to match play, it is likely that many of the remaining players will be willing to take more risks, depending on the status of their match. Instead of playing against the 155 other players in the field, they have but a single opponent, and a quadruple bogey doesn’t cost you four strokes to par, it is just the loss of a single hole. J.J. Weaver, the director of golf at Inverness Club, highlights a few holes on the back nine that could be pivotal in match play given their strategic design.
“Most players will hit an iron or hybrid off the 10th tee to lay up at the top of the hill, but if you are trailing at the turn and need to jump-start your round, an aggressive play would be to hit driver to the bottom of the hill, leaving you a flip wedge into the green.”
“Same thing on No. 15. I saw lots of irons in stroke play, but in the practice rounds a few guys hit driver all the way to the bottom of the hill in front of the creek. It’s a small landing area, but if you can execute it will gain you 40 or 50 yards and instantly makes that a birdie hole.”
“No. 18 is one of the great short par 4s in golf. If a match gets there, I think the player hitting second has a huge advantage. You can see what your opponent does in front of you and adjust your game plan accordingly. With the way the fairway is angled, where the bunkers are positioned and the slopes on the green, a lot can happen on the closing hole.”
Mike Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.