By Sean Martin,
It was an impressive weekend for potential Walker Cup team members, with Harris English and John Peterson finishing 1-2, respectively, at the Nationwide Tour event (where Peter Uihlein was ninth) and Patrick Cantlay placing ninth at the RBC Canadian Open. The top seven or eight spots on the team seem set, but there will be a tight race for the final two or three spots. It’s expected that eight team members will be named after next week's Western Amateur, with the remainder of the team being announced after the U.S. Amateur in late August.
Remember, this watch list isn't a ranking of the game's hottest players. It ranks Walker Cup candidates based on the criteria the USGA uses when picking the team. The USGA looks at results over a two-year period, with an emphasis on amateur results and finishes in USGA events.
(* - invited to Walker Cup practice session earlier this year)
1. Patrick Cantlay, Los Alamitos, Calif. (UCLA)*
Last ranked: 1
Recent results: T-9, RBC Canadian Open
The skinny: Cantlay quietly moved into contention in the RBC Canadian Open’s final round, eventually tying for ninth. He has finished no worse than 24th in four PGA Tour starts this summer.
2. Peter Uihlein, Orlando, Fla. (Oklahoma State)*
Last ranked: T-1
Recent results: T-9, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational
The skinny: Uihlein’s top-10 in last week’s Nationwide Tour event was his best finish in a pro event.
3. Harris English, Thomasville, Ga. (Georgia)*
Last ranked: 5
Recent results: Won, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational; Won, Southern Amateur
The skinny: Outside of Cantlay, no American amateur has had a better summer. He also made the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links.
4. Russell Henley, Macon, Ga. (Georgia)*
Last ranked: 3
Recent results: T-42, U.S. Open
The skinny: It’s hard to believe that two members of the same college team won Nationwide Tour events this year.
5. John Peterson, Fort Worth, Texas (LSU)
Last ranked: 6
Recent results: T-2, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational
The skinny: Peterson’s final-hole bogey cost him last week’s Nationwide Tour event, but it did clinch him a Walker Cup spot. There’s no way the selectors can leave off Peterson, who also won this year’s NCAA Championship and Jones Cup.
6. Nathan Smith, Pittsburgh (mid-amateur)*
Last ranked: 4
Recent results: Won, Sunnehanna Amateur
The skinny: After playing Royal Aberdeen, Uihlein texted Smith to tell him that Smith will tee off on the even holes during their alternate-shot matches. Why? Most are right-to-left, just like Smith’s preferred ball flight.
7. Blayne Barber, Lake City, Fla. (Auburn)*
Last ranked: 7
Recent results: MC, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational; 5th, Southern Amateur; 3rd, Northeast Amateur
The skinny: A solid finish at the Southern Amateur likely was enough to clinch Barber’s spot on the team.
8. Jordan Spieth, Dallas (Texas)*
Last ranked: 11
Recent results: Won, U.S. Junior Amateur
The skinny: USGA officials invited Spieth to the Walker Cup practice session at the start of the year. It’s going to be hard for them not to pick a two-time USGA champion. He’s the only player other than Tiger Woods to win two U.S. Junior Amateur titles.
9. Corbin Mills, Easley, S.C. (Clemson)
Last ranked: 10
Recent results: 4th, Palmetto Amateur; Won, Players Amateur; Won, U.S. Amateur Public Links; Medalist, U.S. Amateur Public Links
The skinny: Mills wasn't even on the Walker Cup radar entering the U.S. Amateur Public Links. Then he won the Publinks (and was medalist) and Players Am in consecutive weeks. Fewer players will win bigger titles this year. Mills has two things hurting his candidacy, though. The USGA doesn't hold its own Publinks in the highest regard. Ask Brandt Snedeker. Also, Mills had achieved little of note before those two victories.
10. James White, Acworth, Ga. (Georgia Tech)
Last ranked: 9
Recent results: MC, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational; 5th, Players Amateur; 2nd, Northeast Amateur; T-8, Sunnehanna Amateur
The skinny: White, a first-team All-American, has come on strong this summer with top 10s at the NCAA East Regional, NCAA Championship, Sunnehanna, Northeast and Players.
ON THE BUBBLE
11. David Chung, Fayetteville, N.C. (Stanford)*
Last ranked: 6
Recent results: T-53, Southern Amateur; T-28, Northeast Amateur
The skinny: Few players had better seasons in 2010 than Chung. He’s searching to find his game, though. With so many other players displaying such good form this summer, it will be hard to pick Chung unless he has a good showing at the Porter Cup and Western Amateur. He’s the defending champion at both.
12. Patrick Rodgers, Avon, Ind. (Stanford)
Last ranked: 12
Recent results: T-16, Southern Amateur; T-2, Players Amateur; 4th, Northeast Amateur
The skinny: Rodgers may be the hidden gem of this Class of 2011. The incoming Stanford freshman doesn't get as much attention as Jordan Spieth or Anthony Paolucci, but he's making a strong run at this year's Walker Cup team. He seems to be in contention every time he plays.
13. Scott Langley, Manchester, Mo. (Illinois)*
Last ranked: 14
Recent results: MC, John Deere Classic; MC, Dogwood Invitational
The skinny: Langley is a class act, and a player whom the USGA would like to have on the team. However, he's in the middle of some deep struggles. He will rise rapidly in the Walker Cup rankings if he starts to turn his game around.
14. Bank Vongvanij, Gainesville, Fla.
Last ranked: NR
Recent results: MC, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational; T-5, Northeast Amateur
The skinny: Vongvanij was a first-team All-American this year but has a relatively slim amateur resume.
15. Andrew Putnam, University Place, Wash. (Pepperdine)*
Last ranked: 14
Recent results: T-4, Sahalee Players Championship; 10th, Northeast Amateur; T-17, Sunnehanna Amateur
The skinny: His older brother, Michael, played on the 2005 Walker Cup team. Andrew has some work to do this summer but is still a strong candidate. He participated in the Walker Cup practice session earlier this year.
Others to watch (alphabetical order):
Brad Benjamin, Luke Guthrie, John Hahn, Gregor Main, Chris Williams, Bobby Wyatt, Andrew Yun.