Erin, Wis. - Sometimes what goes around just keeps going around, at least for a summer.
Kelly Kraft can attest to that. He kept his summer-long karma going on Thursday at Erin Hills, defeating Cameron Wilson 3 and 2 in the morning and beating Andrew Putnam 3 and 2 in the afternoon to advance to the round of 16 in the U.S. Amateur Championship. The double-header sweep was just another deposit in a rich stretch of golf for Kraft.
I have just been playing good the whole summer, said Kraft, a Denton, Texas, product and recent graduate of Southern Methodist University. I started out by winning the Texas Amateur in early June, then went up a tournament later and won the Trans-Mississippi Amateur.
So, I've just been playing good golf all summer. I mean, you get on a roll and you're not really searching anymore.
Actually, Kraft had to search momentarily against Putnam – not for his game, per se, but for his ball. Kraft missed the fairway at No. 1 and quickly fell behind. Putnam, who recently completed his collegiate career at Pepperdine, then landed another punch, birdieing the second hole to go 2 up.
Putnam was hoping to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Michael, by playing his way onto the 2011 USA Walker Cup Team this week. In fact, Michael Putnam was helping clear the path, carrying the bag for his brother. Michael Putnam is usually busy playing on the PGA Tour, but he has been sidelined recently by a fractured wrist.
The reputation and presence of the older Putnam might have been imposing for some. While Andrew Putnam is a lean 6-foot 1-inch, big brother – emphasis on big – is a husky 6-foot-4.
But Kraft wasn't the least bit distracted.
I didn't even know his brother was caddieing for him until I got to the first tee, Kraft said. I mean, I've never met his brother before. But they're both really nice guys. It was no big deal; it was a fun match.
Team Putnam couldn't come up with a plan to detour Kraft, who fired four consecutive rounds in the 60s in July to win the Trans-Miss at 14 under par. And he hasn't lost his Texas touch in Wisconsin.
After missing the first fairway of the match, Kraft did not miss the short grass again. His back-to-back pars squared the proceedings after five holes. At the same time, Putnam was springing a leak. The native of University Place, Wash., played the next three holes at 2 over while Kraft played them at one under, opening up a three-hole advantage.
Putnam twice cut the lead to 2 up, getting birdies at Nos. 10 and 12. But the steady Kraft was making his fellow competitor scratch for every comeback inch. Kraft birdied the par-5 14th hole by knocking his approach to 2½ feet, and his lead went back to 3 up. He then crushed Putnam's hopes for good by landing his tee shot 5 feet from the flagstick on No. 16. When Putnam pushed a 12-foot birdie putt wide, the outcome was sealed.
Kraft previously qualified into the 2007 U.S. Amateur, but he failed to make match play. Going where he has never gone before, he will face University of Nevada-Las Vegas sophomore Blake Biddle at 8:10 a.m. on Friday in the round of 16.
I've just been kind of doing the same thing that I've been doing, which is definitely a lot easier, Kraft said. I mean, I'm a pretty calm player, whether it's match play or stroke play, it's all golf. I feel like I've been playing well and I'm just going with it.