U.S. AMATEUR
Hammer, Hillier Earn Co-Medalist Honors; Match Play Begins Wednesday August 14, 2018 | Pebble Beach, Calif. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Cole Hammer posted rounds of 69-68 in stroke play to rise to the top of the leader board at the 118th U.S. Amateur. (USGA/JD Cuban)

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What Happened

Daniel Hillier, of New Zealand, and Cole Hammer, of Houston, Texas, completed 36 holes of stroke play at 6-under-par 137 to share medalist honors on Tuesday in the 118th U.S. Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links and stroke play co-host Spyglass Hill Golf Course.

The two will join 62 other players in the match-play bracket, starting on Wednesday at Pebble Beach, with six rounds of matches culminating in the 36-hole championship match on Sunday. The bracket will be finalized on Wednesday, starting at 7:30 a.m. PDT, when the 24 players who finished at 4-over-par 147 will play off for the 64th spot on the 17th and 18th holes at Pebble Beach.

“I had some 15-, 20-foot putts on the first five holes and I just barely missed them, so I was excited to get the lid off the hole,” said Hammer, 18, who shot a bogey-free, 4-under 68 at Spyglass Hill on Tuesday. “It was a solid round. To make no bogeys out here on a tough golf course is definitely a positive.”

Hammer, 18, has already won a USGA championship this year, capturing the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in May with partner Garrett Barber, and he reached the semifinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur three weeks ago at Baltusrol Golf Club, where the incoming freshman at the University of Texas lost to Akshay Bhatia. Both Bhatia and eventual Junior Am champion Michael Thorbjornsen also earned match-play berths, with Thorbjornsen, of Wellesley, Mass., finishing two strokes behind the co-medalists at 4-under 139.

Andrew Alligood, 21, of St. John’s, Fla., shot a 5-under 67 on Tuesday at Spyglass to earn the No. 3 match-play seed behind No. 1 Hillier and No. 2 Hammer, who were slotted in the bracket based on when their Round 2 score was posted. Alligood’s 67 at Spyglass, which matched Hillier’s score from the previous day, was highlighted by an eagle 2 on the par-4 fourth hole.

Will Gordon, 22, a rising senior at Vanderbilt University, matched Thorbjornsen’s total of 4-under 139. The best round of the two days of qualifying was posted on Tuesday by 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad, 27, of Newport Beach, Calif., who shot a 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach, 10 strokes better than his Monday score, to earn the No. 13 seed for match play.

Braden Thornberry, of Olive Branch, Miss., the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, posted rounds of 71-74 to earn the No. 39 seed.

What's Next

The final spot in match play will be decided, starting at 7:30 a.m. PDT on No. 17 at Pebble Beach, with 24 players vying for the No. 64 spot. The playoff will be broadcast on USGA Facebook, YouTube and USGA Twitter. The first match of the Round of 64 begins at 9 a.m. on Wednesday at Pebble Beach, with TV coverage on FS1 from 5-8 p.m. EDT.

Notable

  • William Mouw of Chino, Calif., scored the first hole-in-one at the U.S. Amateur since 2015 on Spyglass Hill’s 133-yard 15th hole. Mouw’s pitching wedge landed 8 feet behind the hole and spun back in. The last hole-in-one in the U.S. Amateur was by George Cunningham in the second round of stroke play on the 14th hole of Olympia Fields’ South Course.

  • Co-medalist Daniel Hillier recorded his second eagle in as many days, making a 2 on Spyglass Hill’s fourth hole. Hillier holed a 9-iron from 165 yards.

  • Skip Berkmeyer of St. Louis, Mo., rebounded from a first-round 77 at Pebble Beach with a 3-under 69 at Spyglass Hill, including a chip-in eagle on the par-5 seventh hole.

  • Berkmeyer, 44, is the oldest player to make the match-play cut, while Jackson Van Paris, 14, of Pinehurst, N.C., is the youngest, and the second-youngest player to ever make match play.

  • 2017 USA Walker Cup Team member and 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad posted a bogey-free, 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach to advance to match play for the first time in nine attempts in the U.S. Amateur.

  • Four USGA champions advanced to match play, including Hagestad. Also advancing were Noah Goodwin (2017 U.S. Junior Amateur), Cole Hammer (2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball) and Michael Thorbjornsen (2018 U.S. Junior Amateur).

  • Alex Fitzpatrick of England, younger brother of 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, made the cut for match play. As a 14-year-old, he caddied for his brother at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. The 19-year-old is an incoming freshman at Wake Forest University.

  • The eight Australian players in the field sported “Leuk the Duck” head covers to honor Jarrod Lyle, who lost his battle with leukemia last week at age 36. The head covers support Lyle’s favored organization, called The Challenge, which supports children with cancer.

Quotable

Cole Hammer, on how he is playing this year:

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well. Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots has become a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well.”

Braden Thornberry, on the pressure he faces as the No. 1-ranked amateur player:

“I probably put a lot more pressure on myself than I would ever feel like from reporters or media or anything like that. I think if I came in here ranked 100 or ranked 1, I think it would be the same type of feeling.”

Noah Goodwin, 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, on Pebble Beach as a match-play course:

“I think it's a phenomenal match-play course. The stretch of holes from 3 through 9, the different tee boxes and how they can change the holes just to make it so much different and make it exciting, I think it’s incredible. It’s a golf course where because of how small the greens are you can really put a lot of pressure on your opponent just by hitting good shots in there and hitting a lot of greens.”

Caleb Ramirez, of Blythe, Calif. on overcoming two triple bogeys to advance to match play:

“Definitely tested mentally more than anything. Just two bad swings honestly on those triple bogeys and then kind of compounded a couple mistakes on top of that. But I knew I was playing well. My putter was hot for the first two rounds, and so I knew if I could just get the ball on the green I would be fine after those triple bogeys.”

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Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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