U.S. AMATEUR
Double-Round Thursday: 5 Things to Watch For August 17, 2017 | PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIF. By Michael Trostel, USGA

During the Round of 64, 10 matches reached the difficult par-4 18th hole at Riviera, providing the setting for late-day heroics. (USGA/JD Cuban)

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Five of the top eight seeds were bounced from Wednesday’s Round of 64 in the 117th U.S. Amateur Championship at The Riviera Country Club. Five players from California – the most of any state – survived, including local favorites Collin Morikawa, of La Cañada Flintridge, and Ricky Castillo, of Yorba Linda.

Thursday features 16 matches in the morning and eight more in the afternoon, which will narrow the field from 32 at the start of the day to the eight quarterfinalists. Only one USGA champion, Will Zalatoris, remains, as 31 others will look to add their name to a USGA trophy for the first time.

Here are five things to watch for on Thursday:

Dueling Cowboys: Stroke-play medalist Hayden Wood navigated 36 holes in record-setting fashion at Riviera and Bel-Air, then survived a hard-fought match against No. 64 seed Chris Crisologo on Wednesday. Now he faces a familiar challenge in the Round of 32: college teammate Kristoffer Ventura. Wood, 21, and Ventura, 22, helped to lead Oklahoma State University to victory in the 2017 NCAA Austin Regional, but they will be opponents on Thursday. Ventura won his opening match, 7 and 6, making five birdies against no bogeys in 12 holes. They are the first matchup on Thursday, hitting the first tee at 7:15 a.m. PDT.

Medalist on Alert: Earning the medal for low 36-hole score in stroke play is seemingly a good thing, as the No. 1 seed has won the U.S. Amateur more often than any other position since the USGA began seeding based on qualifying score in 1985. But recently, medalists have struggled in the middle rounds of match play. Since 2005, only one stroke-play medalist has reached the quarterfinals – Neil Raymond in 2013 – and none have advanced to the semifinals or beyond. Wood, the son of 1977 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Willie Wood, looks to buck that trend on Thursday.

Riviera’s Closing Holes: On Wednesday, 20 of the 32 first-round matches reached the 17th hole, while 10 went to No. 18 or beyond. The 590-yard, par-5 17th played downwind and was reachable in two shots for many players. It yielded 15 birdies and one eagle, with usual match-play concessions, among the 40 competitors to play the hole. At 471 yards, the 18th played as the fourth most difficult hole in stroke play. A challenging, uphill tee shot leaves a picturesque, yet demanding approach to a green that pitches back toward the players and from left to right. For those matches that reach the last two holes on Thursday, a birdie-par finish may be necessary to advance.

Doug Ghim vs. Sahith Theegala: One match with some serious firepower on Thursday morning pits Doug Ghim, the Pacific Coast Amateur champion, against Sahith Theegala, a quarterfinalist from the 2016 U.S. Amateur. Ghim is an All-American from the University of Texas who already has a strong USGA pedigree. The 21-year-old from Arlington Heights, Ill., was runner-up in the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links. Theegala not only has local ties, playing college golf at Pepperdine University and living in Chino Hills, Calif., less than 50 miles from Pacific Palisades, but has experience at Riviera. The 19-year-old won the Collegiate Showcase to earn a spot in the PGA Tour’s Genesis Open here in February. He tied for 49th, while playing both his weekend rounds with fellow Southern Californian and 1990 U.S. Amateur champion Phil Mickelson.

What’s on the Line? Thursday is often looked at as the most pivotal day in the U.S. Amateur Championship. From the more than 7,100 entries, just eight players will remain at the end of the day’s marathon session. For those who survive the day’s grueling two rounds, only three matches will stand between them and the Havemeyer Trophy. Additionally, the quarterfinalists will earn exemptions into next year’s U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach Golf Links, if they remain amateurs. We’ll see who has the stamina to still be standing at the end of the day.

Michael Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at mtrostel@usga.org.

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