The preliminaries are now over and we can now focus in on the meat of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship: Match Play. Some believe this is when the championship begins. While sectional qualifying and then on-site stroke-play qualifying are extremely important to the competition, match play is where the intensity gets pushed up several levels. What happened over the past two days is now irrevelant. Each match is a separate competition all to itself. It's always interesting to see how the juniors handle it. Very few of these kids have much match-play experience since most events in this country are stroke play.
Medalist Beau Hossler had only competed in one match-play event prior to this week. How will he handle the format?
Jordan Spieth, the 2009 champion, certainly knows the process and the vagaries of the format. In 2008, he reached the semifinals before falling to Evan Beck. He then won in 2009 before suffering a surprising second-round loss last year to Robby Shelton.
Jim Liu came in as the defending champion. He's hoping to join Tiger Woods as the only players to successfully defend a Junior Amateur title. He's coming off a first-round defeat at the U.S. Amateur Public Links three weeks ago in Bandon Dunes. He said that match, which went to the 18th hole, got him back into grinding mode for match play.
So who will ultimately hoist the trophy on Saturday afternoon?
Will it be one of the big names such as Spieth, Liu or Hossler?
Or will an unknown come out of the pack?
That's the beauty of match play. Anyone who qualifies has a chance. It requires not only physical ability but incredible mental fortitude to grind out match after match. You can win when playing poorly and lose when shooting under par.
But we do know one thing: Come Saturday afternoon, the large silver cup will be handed out to one deserving player.