JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The Round of 32 is complete at the 2014 U.S. Amateur, and the following are some highlights from an action-packed Thursday morning at Atlanta Athletic Club:
APL Champ Rolls On
Byron Meth is beginning to enjoy the efficiency of match play. A day after a 6-and-5 opening-round win, Meth, 21, of San Diego, Calif., dispatched Trevor Phillips, 16, of Inman, S.C., 5 and 4. Meth, who won the final U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship last month, faces four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith in Thursday afternoon’s round of 16.
If you get off to a fast start, you have the match in your control, Meth said. If you make birdies and par at the worst, then you’re probably going to be teeing off first. And if you’re driving it well, which I have been, then it’s tough for your opponent to come back unless they’re making a string of birdies.
In winning the APL, Meth played 119 of a possible 126 holes and trailed for only eight holes — all of which came in his 37-hole finals win over Doug Ghim. Through two matches this week on Atlanta Athletic Club’s Highlands Course, Meth has played 27 holes in two matches and has yet to trail. In fact, he went 23 holes before losing one.
Smith's Game Is Keeping Pace
At age 36,Nathan Smith is one of the older players in this week’s U.S. Amateur Championship field. His game, though, has never looked younger.
Smith, of Pittsburgh, defeated Brandon McIver, 20, of Billings, Mont., 4 and 3 to advance to the championship’s Round of 16 for only the second time in 14 U.S. Amateur starts. The last time was in 2000 at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., when he lost to Gary Wolstenholme, of England, 2 and 1, in his second U.S. Amateur.
My game is so much better probably because of technology, said Smith, who made birdie putts of 20, 12 and 20 feet, respectively, in a stretch of five consecutive winning holes midway through his match against McIver, during which he went from 1 down to 3 up. I think the fields are so much deeper. If I played now like I did then, I don’t think I’d be making the cuts now.
Once you reach match play you’re not satisfied, you want to be competitive. It’s not like I’m hanging it up, I’m trying to make it as far in match play as everybody else.
Relief for Schniederjans
Oliver Schniederjans of Powder Springs, Ga., led Sam Burns, 3 up with four holes to play Thursday morning, but an hour later, Burns had a birdie putt on the 19th hole to eliminate the world’s No. 1 amateur player.
Burns missed, and when Schniederjans made par on the 20th hole to Burns’ bogey, the Georgia Tech senior had escaped into the Round of 16.
Schniederjans said he learned a valuable lesson about thinking clearly and playing more slowly under pressure. While Burns made a birdie at the 17th to win one hole, he also benefited from double bogeys at 15 and 18 by Schniederjans to stay alive.
I am just so thankful that I got through that round, a relieved Schniederjans said. He had a putt to win, and had he made it, that would have been really, really hard to handle. I’m glad I learned what I did. I should have already known that, but it’s amazing how under pressure sometimes things come up and it’s hard to think straight. I can’t believe I got through that match. It will make the starting hole of the next match a lot easier.
Mullen Goes The (Extra) Distance
Jimmy Mullen didn’t have much time to rest between his Round-of-32 victory over Justin Tereshko and his Round-of-16 meeting with Frederick Wedel. That’s not uncommon on a double-round competition day, but Mullen had to put even more work in on Thursday morning – 23 holes, to be exact.
Neither player led by more than one hole in a match that included no halves from the 13th hole forward in regulation. Tereshko had chances to advance, missing a birdie try from about 15 feet on No. 18 and a 9-footer for par on the 19th hole. An errant drive led to bogey on the par-5 fifth hole, the match’s 23rd, and would prove to be Tereshko’s undoing, as Mullen hit his third shot from a greenside bunker to about 4 feet, essentially ending the match.
It seemed like none of us wanted to win it in the extra holes, like we were just waiting for the other one to slip up, Mullen said afterward of easily the longest match he can ever recall playing. I’ll take any sort of win I can get.
Match Play Specialist
Bryson DeChambeau, of Clovis, Calif., is making another deep run in a USGA event this year, beating Cheng-Tsung Pan, of Sammamish, Wash., 2 up, in a second-round match in the U.S. Amateur.
DeChambeau, 20, reached the quarterfinals of last month’s U.S. Amateur Public Links after never winning more than one match in any of his five previous USGA championships, although he reached the match-play bracket in all of them. He did not hold more than a 2-up lead on Pan, 22, a native of Chinese Taipei who reached the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals in 2007, but DeChambeau also never trailed starting at the third hole.
Pan’s a great player and he just kept firing at me, DeChambeau said. There’s no quit in him. But I just played hard, fought hard and did my best. We’ll see how it goes from here. I have to keep my head on straight, and keep hitting good shots.