King James: Piot Rallies to Win 121st U.S. Amateur
August 15, 2021 | Oakmont, Pa.
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
James Piot, 22, of Canton, Mich., rallied from a three-hole deficit with the help of three birdies over the final eight holes on Sunday to capture the 121st U.S. Amateur Championship at demanding Oakmont Country Club with a 2-and-1 victory over Austin Greaser, of Vandalia, Ohio.
Greaser, 20, assumed a 3-up lead with a par on the par-4 ninth hole at Oakmont, the 27th of the match. But Piot began his winning comeback on the next hole, the 474-yard, par-4 10th, a hole that the fifth-year Michigan State senior owned this week: he won it in all five of his previous matches, and twice more in the championship match vs. Greaser, a junior at the University of North Carolina.
Piot hit his 9-iron approach shot to 4 feet and converted the birdie putt, then won No. 11 with a par as Greaser three-putted for a bogey from about 12 feet. Piot then won the par-5 12th with a par and the par-3 13th with a conceded birdie to take his first lead in the match since he led, 1 up, at the 18-hole lunch break.
“When I got down, I knew that my driver had been a bit shaky,” said Piot, the No. 31 seed, who becomes the first golfer from Michigan to win the U.S. Amateur. “I just tried to stay confident in myself. I wanted to play the back nine in 4 under and I ended up playing it in 3 under.”
Greaser stopped the bleeding by converting a 20-foot birdie putt to match Piot’s up-and-down birdie on the short par-4 14th, but Piot extended his lead to 2 up with a solid par on the 502-yard, par-4 15th, as Greaser drove into the “mini-Church Pews” bunker and was forced to lay up short of the green. He missed an 18-foot putt to tie the hole.
Both players parred the next two holes, the par-3 16th and par-4 17th. On the drivable 17th, both found the deep bunker to the left of the green, and Piot put his second shot over the green into another bunker. But he got up and down for par from there, and Greaser missed his 10-foot birdie putt that would have extended the match to No. 18.
“He hit a really good shot on 10, to 3 feet for a birdie; hats off to him there,” said Greaser, the 2020 Ohio Amateur champion. “That was a good start. Then I just made some mistakes there on 11, 12, 13, just bogey, bogey, bogey. That's never going to look good on the scorecard. Just didn’t execute coming down the stretch.”
What the Champion Receives
- A gold medal and custody of the Havemayer Trophy for one year
- A 10-year exemption into the U.S. Amateur Championship
- An exemption into the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., as well as an exemption into the 2022 Open Championship at St. Andrews and a likely invitation to the 2022 Masters Tournament (must be an amateur for the latter two competitions)
What the Runner-up Receives
- A silver medal and a three-year exemption into the U.S. Amateur Championship
- An exemption into the 2022 U.S. Open and a likely invitation to the 2022 Masters Tournament (must be an amateur)
The Social Scene
- The 2021 final represents the eighth final in the last 12 years with two players from the United States. It also marked the third year in a row with an American champion. It’s just the second time since 2003 that three straight winners were Americans. James Piot joined Andy Ogletree and Tyler Strafaci, both of Georgia Tech, as the most recent three champions. The last time three straight Americans won was in 2010-12, when Peter Uihlein, Kelly Kraft and Steven Fox prevailed, respectively.
- Piot, of Michigan State, is the first active Big Ten golfer to win the U.S. Amateur since John Cook (Ohio State) in 1978. Matt Fitzpatrick had not yet enrolled at Northwestern University when he won in 2013, while John Harris was an alumnus of the University of Minnesota when he won at age 41 in 1993.
- When Piot won the par-5 12th hole, the 30th of the match, it broke a streak of 10 consecutive par 5s either won or halved by Austin Greaser.
- Going back to at least 2008, no player had won four straight holes on the closing nine holes of the championship match.
- Tale of the tape: For the week of match play, Piot played 121 holes to 117 for Austin Greaser. Piot won 43 holes overall to 42 for Greaser; Piot lost 25 holes to 29 for Greaser; Piot trailed for 24 holes for the week, while Greaser trailed for 27 holes. Piot is No. 86 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Greaser No. 82.
- Of the previous 10 U.S. Amateur champions, six of them led at the 18-hole break, three trailed after 18 holes and one match was tied. Piot led Sunday’s match, 1 up, after 18 holes.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world. I mean, as an amateur it’s the best thing you can do. After making that putt on 17, I was just like, oh, my God, I might’ve done it. It feels phenomenal, shows the hard work I’ve done is paying off.” – James Piot, on winning the 121st U.S. Amateur
“My assistant coach on the bag [Dan Ellis] told me that after I got through it, he was like, I think we might have won that hole every time. The stretch of 8, 10, 11, I think losing 9 was the first time I lost that hole all week. That stretch, I have gained one or two holes every time I played, so that's a big momentum swing, especially heading into the closing holes. That made a world of difference today.” – Piot, on winning No. 10 and the momentum shift in the match
“You know what? I actually thought I hit two really good shots. That first one on 17 came off the face and like, ‘This is perfect.’ Then I look over and it didn’t even look like it was close to stopping on the green. It was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, what did I just do?’ On the second one, it scared the hole and went 15, 20 feet by. My coach [Ellis] wanted to look it over. I was like, ‘I feel pretty good about this one.’ I just rolled it end over end and it was perfect.” – Piot, on going bunker-to-bunker and making par to win the match
“I felt like he didn’t make a lot of birdies, but he just didn’t do a lot wrong. He got up and down when he needed to, made a couple putts, a lot of pars, and unfortunately, I was probably making more bogeys today than I had all week.” – Austin Greaser, on Piot’s play
“Me and Carter [Pitcairn, Greaser’s caddie] were talking about it this morning. It’s a very unique experience, an opportunity of a lifetime. Who knows if I’ll ever be standing back up here like this again. You got the best golfers in the world, and to be able to be one of the last two is something special. It’s something that I’m going to cherish for a long time.” – Greaser, on reaching the final
“I like how he plots his way around the golf course, makes pars, and doesn’t force anything, and knows this is a hard golf course. He’s a great kid. We had a great time out there, some good conversations. I wish him all the best going forward.” – Greaser, on Piot