U.S. Amateur Stroke Play: Five Groups to Watch
August 9, 2018 | Liberty Corner, N.J.
By Scott Lipsky and Greg Midland, USGA
The 118th U.S. Amateur Championship gets underway with two rounds of stroke play on Monday, August 13 and Tuesday, August 14. Each of the 312 competitors will play one round on Pebble Beach Golf Links and one round on Spyglass Hill Golf Course, vying to be one of the low 64 scorers to advance to match play. With such a large field of players from all over the world, there are dozens of storylines and players to follow. Here are five groups that are especially intriguing.
7:40 a.m., Pebble Beach, Hole No. 10 / 12:55 p.m., Spyglass Hill, Hole No. 1: Michael Thorbjornsen, Scott Harvey, Sean Knapp
A cross-section of USGA amateur champions. Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., made his USGA championship debut last month at Baltusrol Golf Club, in Springfield, N.J., and ended the week as the 71st U.S. Junior Amateur champion to earn his place in the U.S. Amateur field. Harvey, 40, of Greensboro, N.C., won the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur and was the runner-up in 2016, and also qualified for the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills. Knapp, 56, of Oakmont, Pa., captured the 2017 U.S. Senior Amateur and has some interesting U.S. Amateur history as well, advancing to the Round of 16 in 1995 before falling to eventual champion Tiger Woods.
7:51 a.m., Pebble Beach, Hole No. 1 / 12:45 p.m., Spyglass Hill, Hole No. 10: Matt Parziale, Luis Gagne, Will Grimmer
Of the 20 amateurs who teed it up in the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, these three were the only ones to make the cut. Grimmer, 21, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who will be a senior at Ohio State University this fall, finished 66th in his second U.S. Open start (he also played at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014). Brockton, Mass., firefighter Parziale, the 31-year-old reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, and the 20-year-old Gagne, a rising senior at Louisiana State University, shared low-amateur honors by tying for 48th (along with, among others, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson). The winner and runner-up of the U.S. Amateur will be back at Pebble Beach next year for the 119th U.S. Open. This trio knows exactly what that means.
8:22 a.m., Spyglass Hill, Hole No. 10 / 1:37 p.m., Pebble Beach, Hole No. 1: Luis Fernandez Barco, Zach Bauchou, Jovan Rebula
Three different nationalities are represented in this group of players who each won a major national championship, though not in their home countries. Barco, 23, of Peru, captured the 2018 Mexican Amateur as one of his three tournament victories this year. Barco graduated from Purdue University last year. Bauchou, 22, of Forest, Va., is the reigning Canadian Amateur champion and member of the 2018 NCAA champion Oklahoma State University golf team. This year he is aiming to advance past the Round of 32, which has been his showing in the last two U.S. Amateurs. Rebula, 21, has a famous uncle – Ernie Els – but even the Big Easy never accomplished what Rebula did this past June, as he became the first South African since Bobby Cole in 1966 to win the British Amateur. This will be his first U.S. Amateur.
1:27 p.m., Pebble Beach, Hole No. 1 / 8:12 a.m., Spyglass Hill, Hole No. 10: Carter Toms, Thomas Lehman, Hayden Wood
Combine the résumés of this trio’s fathers, and you get two USGA championship titles, two major championship victories and 19 PGA Tour wins, but these three are out to make names for themselves on the Monterey Peninsula. Toms, a rising junior at Louisiana State, is the son of David Toms, the reigning U.S. Senior Open champion and the 2001 PGA champion, and will make his USGA championship debut at Pebble Beach. Lehman, who will be a senior at Cal-Poly, celebrated his first birthday a few days after his father, Tom Lehman, won the 1996 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Wood, the son of 1977 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Willie Wood, was the stroke-play medalist in last year’s U.S. Amateur at Riviera Country Club. He will be a senior at Oklahoma State University, his dad’s alma mater, this fall.
2:09 p.m., Pebble Beach, Hole No. 1 / 8:54 a.m., Spyglass Hill, Hole No. 10: Braden Thornberry, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland
This is a world-class grouping of players who are currently #1, #3 and #5 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). Top-ranked Thornberry, 21, of Olive Branch, Miss., was a member of the 2017 USA Walker Cup Team, along with third-ranked Morikawa, also 21, of La Cañada Flintridge, Calif. Hovland, 20, of Norway, is fifth in the WAGR and is an All-America at Oklahoma State University, where he helped the Cowboys win the 2018 NCAA title. He will be looking to improve on his showing in the 2017 U.S. Amateur, when he failed to make match play. Both Thornberry and Morikawa are playing their fourth consecutive U.S. Amateur; Morikawa, an All-America at Cal-Berkeley, was the 2018 Golfweek Men’s Collegiate Player of the Year and set a new NCAA season scoring record of 68.68. Thornberry, who plays for Ole Miss, competed in the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills and also tied for 26th in the PGA Tour’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.