Cole Hammer (USGA photo)
NORTHFIELD, Ill. (Aug. 2, 2018) – When you’re vying for one of 16 coveted spots on a match-play bracket and you’re competing with the best amateurs in the world, it never hurts to do something a little crazy. Cole Hammer
’s third-round 10-under 61 falls into that category.
Hammer, the University of Texas commit who won the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in May, climbed up the leaderboard until he had reached the top spot on Thursday morning, yet the birdies kept falling. There were 10, to be exact, and no bogeys. His 10-under 61 set a new course record at Sunset Ridge Golf Club, and all but guaranteed he would make it to match play.
“I got on the range this morning and hit it really, really good,” said Hammer, who is playing his second Western Amateur “The putter felt good on the putting green, too. I actually missed about a 10-footer uphill on No. 1 this morning. Then it was off to the races.”
Most importantly after a record round, Hammer remained calm. His final-round 67 got him to 23 under and left him with a share of first place on the stroke-play board. Sam Stevens
of Wichita, Kan., also finished at 23 under after rounds of 65, 66, 65, 65. It’s a new Western Amateur scoring record, breaking the previous record of 265 set by Aron Price in 2004 at Point O’ Woods Golf & Country Club in Benton Harbor, Mich.
Stevens is a former player at Oklahoma State. He earned a share of medalist honors by rolling in a 50-foot putt on his 36th hole.
“I was just trying to two-putt it,” said Stevens, a veteran of three Western Amateurs. “I hit it a little too hard, and it broke right in there. Definitely not expecting to make that one.”
Hammer is a good example of how fortunes can change in an event loaded with so many top players. He was close enough to the top of the leaderboard to be safe but not close enough to be a story after 36 holes. As Hammer rose, first-round leader Lloyd Jefferson Go dove. Go opened with a 63 that tied the course record, only to follow with rounds of 72-81-72 and finish last among those who made the 36-hole cut.
The real drama was on the 72-hole cut line to the Sweet 16 match-play bracket. At the end of the day, five players were tied for 16th at 11 under. Davis Shore
, of Brentwood, Tenn., came out on top of the playoff to earn the final spot on the bracket. He made birdie on the third playoff hole to advance.
In addition to Hammer’s impressive Thursday performance, Davis Riley
and Brandon Wu
also went low. Riley had a third-round 63 and finished T-10 while Wu had a fourth-round 64 for fifth.
The match-play bracket is made up of plenty of top players. Behind the medalists, Pacific Coast Amateur champion Isaiah Salinda
, a senior at Stanford, continued his good play from last week to finish 20 under and in solo third.
Cal’s Collin Morikawa
was another shot back in fourth. Two Australians made it into match play in Min Woo Lee
, fifth, and Kyle Michel
, T-10. Lee made it to the Sweet 16 a year ago, and is the only player in this year’s field to be making a return appearance this week.
Local favorite Patrick Flavin, of Highwood, Ill., earned his first match-play appearance in his fourth Western Amateur, tying for seventh at 17 under.
ABOUT THE Western Amateur
Invitational event, and the most important
tournament in American amateur golf outside of the
U.S. Amateur. With a grueling schedule, it's quite
hardest amateur tournament to win.
156 invited players come from across the
globe to play one of the toughest formats in
amateur golf. The tournament starts with 18
holes of stroke play on Tuesday and
Wednesday after which the field is cut to the
low 44 scores and ties. Thursday it's a long
day of 36 holes of stroke play to determine
the “Sweet Sixteen” who compete at Match
Play on Friday and Saturday (two matches
each day if you're going to the finals) to
decide the champion.
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