JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – His work done, finally, Ollie Schniederjans grabbed a towel from his golf bag.
“Oh my God,” the Georgia Tech senior groaned, burying his sunburned face.
The 6-and-5 blowout he enjoyed in the Round of 64?
That won’t happen again at this U.S. Amateur.
With about 150 supporters following his every shot at Atlanta Athletic Club, the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world was pushed to the limit Thursday in his Round of 32 match against Sam Burns.
Three up with four to play, Schniederjans lost Nos. 15, 16 and 18 – all with unforced errors – then could only watch as Burns’ 10-footer to win on the first extra hole drifted left.
“It was literally a nightmare,” Schniederjans said.
Burns’ tee shot on No. 2 – a 512-yard par 4 – sailed 50 yards left of the fairway, leading to a bogey. Schniederjans found the left side of the fairway, hit his approach to the back part of the green and two-putted from 30 feet for the win in 20 holes.
“I’m just so thankful that I got through that round,” he said. “That would have been really, really hard for me to handle that.”
That he even went to overtime was surprising enough.
Looking to close out the match on the par-3 15th, Schniederjans tried to get “too cute” with his bunker shot, leaving the ball in the sand. He lost the hole with double, then also dropped No. 17 after Burns stuck his tee shot to 6 feet.
Both players found the water on the par-5 finishing hole – Burns’ tee shot with a 3-wood turned too much and caught the edge of the pond, while Schniederjans let him off the hook when he thinned a pitching wedge from the fairway bunker, his ball rolling into the drink. Schniederjans wound up making double bogey, sending the match to extras.
The slate clean, Burns rued the 10-footer on the first playoff hole that would have scored the biggest upset of the week.
“The door was open,” said the 2015 LSU commit, “and I should have come through.”
Instead, it was Schniederjans who was moving on, inching one step closer to keeping his No. 1 ranking. The top-ranked player at week’s end will receive the McCormack Medal, giving him a spot in both summer Opens next year.
A few of the other A-listers weren’t quite as fortunate.
World No. 2 Robby Shelton of Alabama lost a 1-up decision after a back-and-forth back nine with Houston’s Roman Robledo.
Needing a birdie on the last hole to possibly force a playoff, Shelton hit his hybrid heavy from the fairway bunker on the par-5 18th. Robledo safely found the center of the green with his third shot and two-putted for the narrow win.
“You can live with that,” Shelton said. “I played a heck of a round, and he played great too. I can’t be mad at myself for that.”
More shell-shocked was Jonathan Garrick, who frittered away a 4-up lead on the back nine against Eli Cole. Including the usual concessions, the UCLA junior shot 4 over the back nine, the final blow a three-putt from 30 feet on 18 when he had a chance to force extras.
“I never thought at any point that I’m going to lose the match,” Garrick said.
Neither did Schniederjans, until he almost did.