Both co-medalists lose on wild day at U.S. Amateur

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2014, 12:36 am

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – After surviving a 17-for-4 playoff early Wednesday, Nathan Smith joked that first-round opponent Lee McCoy was probably “licking his chops that he gets the old guy” in the Round of 64 at the U.S. Amateur.

Not exactly.

Afterward, McCoy was licking his wounds.

During a thrilling tussle between a 20-year-old Georgia standout and a 36-year-old financial adviser, it was Smith, the old guy, who prevailed in 19 holes at Atlanta Athletic Club.

“The media center at the U.S. Am,” Smith said, walking into the clubhouse. “I didn’t think this existed.” 

It’s been five years since Smith reached match play, nearly a decade (2005) since he won a match.

Smith said all the right things afterward – that he was just excited to be here, that he had nothing to lose, that McCoy has a tremendous future (which he does). But don’t let the aw-shucks demeanor fool you.

“I saw the (bracket) and saw a four-time Mid-Am winner and a guy that’s played in the Masters four times,” McCoy said, “and I was like, 'I get to play the grizzled veteran in the first round. Fantastic.'

“I don’t think he had his best stuff today, and neither did I. He just scored unbelievably well, like a veteran would.” 

U.S. Amateur: Articles, videos and photos

Both medalists - McCoy and Arkansas junior Taylor Moore - are gone after the first day. So are several of the Amateur’s biggest names, including Western Amateur winner Beau Hossler, Walker Cupper Jordan Niebrugge, and former No. 1-ranked junior Scottie Scheffler.

“It just goes to show you that it’s two different golf tournaments,” said McCoy, who shot 8-under 135 over two days here, then (including the usual concessions) shot 74 Wednesday and fell in overtime.

Meanwhile, Moore lost, 3 and 2, to little-known Jesse Heinly, the 940th-ranked amateur in the world who recently graduated from tiny Concordia University in Portland and had spent his last few months working, playing and seeing what’s next in life. 

“I love playing match play,” he said, “just because it wipes out the score; just because it’s 1-on-1.”

Smith and McCoy’s 1-on-1 battle was the best of the day.

One down with two to play, Smith smoothed a 6-iron to 6 feet on the daunting, over-water, par-3 17th, then scrambled for par on the last after an errant tee shot.

On the 19th hole, McCoy almost instantly regretted his club choice on the 454-yard first. Under any other circumstance, he can’t hit a 3-wood 310 yards – “I’m not a big guy,” he reminded us – but sure enough, with the adrenaline flowing, he found the right fairway bunker.

“I had a feeling I was going to,” he said. “I couldn’t make myself pull 5-wood.” 

Both players missed the green with their approach shots. McCoy had the easier third shot, but his chip from short of the green came up 10 feet shy and he missed the putt. Smith blasted out to 3 feet for an easy par. 

“You can’t commend him enough for making those two numbers that he did there,” McCoy said. “So I don’t feel like I beat myself. I got beat, and that’s a better feeling than the other way.”

Smith will move on to play Brandon McIver in the Round of 32. If he wins that match against the Oregon junior and 2014 U.S. Open participant, Smith will reach the third round for the first time since 2000. 

“It just seems like the U.S. Amateur every year, no matter my age, just keeps getting better and better,” he said. “The fields are so deep. There’s just so many guys, and they’re all so good.”

None more impressive Wednesday than the old guy. 

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.