University Place, Wash. – The comeback trail already has become well worn with Scott Langley’s footsteps at Chambers Bay.
For the second day in a row the reigning NCAA champion rallied from 2 down and needed extra holes to triumph, this time taking out fellow collegiate All-American Patrick Reed in 19 holes Thursday morning in the round of 32 in the 110th U.S. Amateur Championship.
I’ve got stop making it so hard on myself playing 19 holes, said Langley, 21, a senior to be at the University of Illinois, who defeated Tim Jackson in overtime Wednesday.
This time the left-hander won the par-4 first hole and the match with a conceded par after Reed, fresh off a birdie-4 at the par-5 18th to force extra holes, blocked his tee shot into hill and high grass right of the No. 1 fairway and subsequently needed five more shots to reach the green.
Reed, an NCAA champ himself as a member of the Augusta State University squad that won the Division I team title, was lucky enough to find the ball after a search of almost the allotted five minutes, but he needed two to extract his ball from the high fescue rough. Both his fourth and fifth shots ended up short of the green before he chipped on. By then, Langley was greenside in a bunker in just two, and when he splashed out safely to 15 feet, Reed had no choice but to concede the match.
It’s disappointing, because I felt like I played real well this week, said Reed, 20, who hit into the same hill on his opening drive and made six, but won the hole when Langley, also in the mounds, carded a quadruple-bogey 8. You just can’t hit the driver right on 1.
You also can’t let your opponent off the hook early, which is what Reed thought he did despite leading by two shots through 12 holes after he drove the green to within 8 feet of the hole at the 293-yard par-4 12th and won with a conceded eagle.
I shouldn’t have even been in the situation in the first place. I let him back in the match, said Reed, a semifinalist in the 2008 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2. Against Scott, that will hurt you. You can get away with it from some players but not when you get to the caliber of Scott and those guys. I didn’t close off things out the way I should have.
I made the turn at 2 up and I can count four putts inside 6 feet I missed on the front nine. If I make three of those all of a sudden I’m 5 up. I just didn’t capitalize on anything.
By contrast, Langley capitalized on a few of Reed’s loose shots to patiently work his way back.
Both those situations I had so many holes left, said Langley, who tied for low amateur honors in June when he finished tied for 16th at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Especially out here you can win holes with pars. That’s what I did. I just tried to keep putting pressure on him with my ball-striking. My putting was pretty miserable this morning, but I think my ball-striking held me up, and I had some easy pars. You do that enough and puts a lot of pressure on the other guy to keep up, and on a course like this it’s hard to keep up.
Indeed, Langley won three straight holes with pars starting at the 13th for a 1-up advantage, but lost the 16th when Reed nearly drove the green, flopped his second over into a bunker, and then blasted in for an unexpected birdie.
Still, Langley appeared to regain control when his up and down for par at the short 17th restored his 1-up advantage, only to lose the 18th after driving into a waste area and needing four to reach the green while Reed was putting for eagle.
Then came the finish, which proved anticlimactic in a match in which the last nine holes were won outright, four without the winner having to putt, including the final hole. Wow, I didn’t realize that, Langley said. That’s the definition of back and forth. Those matches are fun. It’s a lot more fun for me now that I won. I’m sure Patrick doesn’t feel the same way, but that’s what match play is about.
It doesn’t matter if you shoot 67 or 77, if you beat the other guy, you’re moving on, Langley added. It was a tough day for both of us, and I’m just happy to be on the right side of it again.
Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship Web sites.