Youth Served in Quarterfinals

By Sports NetworkAugust 22, 2003, 4:00 pm
USGAOAKMONT, Pa. -- Twenty-two-year-old David Oh knocked off 2002 semifinalist Bill Haas, 2 and 1, Friday to advance to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club.
In a tight match, Haas took an early 1-up lead when Oh bogeyed the second hole. However, Oh won the next to square the match as Haas bogeyed the third.
The match remained all square until No. 10. Haas stumbled to a double bogey to fall 1-down and Oh won the next with a par four to extend his lead to 2-up. Haas came back to birdie the par-3 13th to get within 1-down.
Oh responded with a birdie at the 14th to reclaim a 2-up lead. Oh's lead dropped to 1-up when he bogeyed the 15th though.
Oh's lead would again be 2-up when Haas bogeyed the par-3 16th. The duo parred the 17th and the match was Oh's. Oh will square off against Nick Flanagan in the semifinals.
The 19-year-old Flanagan bested 44-year-old Jerry Courville, 1-up. Courville a three-time quarterfinalist at this event grabbed an early lead when he birdied the par-4 first. Flanagan quickly evened the match as Courville bogeyed the second.
Flanagan owned the match from there. He won Nos. 3, 5 and 6 to grab a 3-up lead as Courville played those holes in four-over par.
Courville fought back to 1-down with wins at the seventh and ninth. The players rotated winning holes from the 10th to 14th with Flanagan winning the 14th to go 2-up.
Courville birdied the 17th to remain in the match, but Flanagan was victorious after the pair parred the 18th holes.
The other semifinal match will see Lee Williams face off against Casey Wittenberg, the youngest remaining competitor at the age of 18 years old.
Wittenberg downed George Zahringer, the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, 1-up. Zahringer bogeyed two of his first three holes to fall 2-down but Wittenberg bogeyed the par-5 fourth and saw his lead slip to 1-up.
Zahringer birdied the seventh to square the match but Wittenberg birdied the next to reclaim the lead. The see-saw continued as Zahringer birdied the ninth to again square the match.
Wittenberg won the 10th, but Zahringer won the 12th and the pair each had a birdie over the next two holes to keep the match all square through 14. They then halved the 15th and 16th.
The turning point came at the 17th when Zahringer bogeyed the hole. Each man parred the last to give Wittenberg the win.
'It's obviously a huge goal of mine to be able to play well in the U.S. Amateur,' said the 18-year-old Wittenberg. 'It's our biggest tournament and a lot of people that are great players can't wait to get over the hurdle in the U.S. Amateur.'
Williams bogeyed the first two holes to trail Patrick Carter 2-down after two holes. Williams fought back to square the match with wins on Nos. 5 and 6.
The 21-year-old Williams also won the seventh to grab a 1-up lead. The duo split the ninth and 10th holes, before Williams won the 11th to regain a 2-up advantage. He extended the lead to 4-up with wins on Nos. 13 and 14. He won the match when both players parred the 15h.
'It's an honor to get here because there are so many good players that try to qualify,' said Williams. 'So when you get here, you might as well be thinking about winning.'
The U.S. Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, with 10 of the events strictly for amateurs.
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.