Sunday, August 19, 2012

U.S. Amateur Final

Today's final match in the U.S. Amateur golf championship -- being played at Cherry Hills Country Club near Denver -- features:

1. Michael Weaver of Fresno, Calif. He plays for the University of California. Weaver defeated the following golfers to get here:

-- Zac Blair of Ogden, Utah (2 & 1)
-- Patrick Rodgers of Avon, Ind. (2 up)
-- Albin Choi of Canada (19 holes) (Weaver was 2 down with two holes to play)
-- Ricard Gouveia of Portugal (4 & 3)
-- Justin Thomas of Goshen, Ky. (3 & 2) (Thomas was last season's NCAA Player of the Year)

2. Steven Fox of Hendersonville, Tenn. He plays for UT-Chattanooga. Fox defeated the following golfers to get here:

-- Jeff Osberg of Philadelphia (3 & 2)
-- Douglas Hanzel of Savannah, Ga. (1 up)
-- Zack Munroe of Charlotte, N.C. (2 up)
-- Chris Williams of Moscow, Idaho (4 & 2) (Williams was the top-ranked amateur in the world)
-- Brandon Hagy of Westlake Village, Calif. (2 up)

This will be a 36-hole match. NBC's coverage will start at 3 PM Central Daylight Time.

56 comments:

  1. Here's where we stand so far:

    Fox has won the following holes: 1, 2, 12, 14, and 17

    Weaver has won the following holes: 3, 5, 7, 8, 13, 15, and 16

    So Weaver is two up after 17 holes. There are 19 holes to go.

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  2. Fox and Weaver halve the 18th hole with bogeys. At the halfway point, Weaver has a two-up lead with 18 holes to go.

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  3. Play will resume at 2:30 Central Daylight Time.

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  4. Now we're playing the second 18. Fox had a double-bogey on the 20th hole to fall three down, but a bogey by Weaver on the 23d hole allowed Fox to move within two holes again.

    Weaver is now 2 up with 13 to go.

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  5. Weaver and Fox halve the 24th and 25th holes.

    Weaver is 2 up with 11 to go.

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  6. Now NBC's coverage has begun. Weaver and Fox both parred the 26th hole.

    Weaver is 2 up with 10 to go.

    Weaver and Fox both hit terrible drives on the 9th hole (which is the 27th of the match).

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  7. Weaver and Fox both bogey the 27th hole. NBC tells us that both guys are playing like "tired golfers."

    Weaver is 2 up with 9 to go.

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  8. Fox has a wonderful birdie on the 28th hole, a 451-yard par four. He wins the hole.

    Weaver is 1 up with 8 to go.

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  9. They just interviewed a guy from the USGA who said they are concerned about a decline in the number of people playing recreational golf. He said that their research shows that people think golf is too hard, too expensive, and too complicated, and that they find the game generally unwelcoming. I have to say that I agree with all of those observations.

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    1. I do think it's possible that the Rory McIlroy golf moment might turn out to be the Ivan Lendl tennis moment.

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  10. Weaver and Fox both birdie the 29th hole, a 592-yard par 5. They don't seem as tired now.

    Weaver is 1 up with 7 to go.

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  11. Weaver and Fox both par the 30th hole, a 226-yd par 3.

    Weaver is 1 up with 6 to go.

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  12. Fox bogeys the 31st hole, a 435-yd par 4, after a terrible drive. Weaver wins the hole.

    Weaver is 2 up with 5 to go.

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  13. NBC just had a commercial for the FedEx playoffs on the PGA Tour. I literally had no idea that Bill Haas -- the son of Jay Haas -- won the FedEx Cup last year. I'm not even sure I knew that Jay Haas had a son on the PGA Tour.

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    1. I think I had heard of the FedEx Cup.

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  14. Weaver hit a bad drive, but managed to save his par on the 32d hole, a 526-yd par 4. Fox also parred the hole.

    Weaver is 2 up with 4 to go.

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  15. NBC tells us that neither of these guys was supposed to reach the final. In fact, they each had to survive a playoff just to qualify for the match-play rounds.

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    1. I can't believe I missed it that Justin Thomas of Goshen and Louisville Saint Xavier High was last season's NCAA player of the year. So Goshen produced the NCAA men's golfer of the year, and Pewee Valley, the runnerup men's tennis player.

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  16. Fox curls in a tricky downhill birdie putt on the 33d hole, a 149-yard par 3. He wins the hole.

    Weaver is 1 up with 3 to go.

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  17. OK, now it's getting serious.

    The 16th hole at Cherry Hills -- and the 34th hole of this match -- is a 441-yd par 4.

    Fox hits his drive into a fairway bunker.
    Weaver hits his drive into the short rough on the edge of the fairway.

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  18. From the fairway bunker, Fox hits his shot up to the front edge of the green. This gets a big cheer, and the NBC guys note that the crowd seems to favor Fox.

    I would point out that if there 25 people in that crowd from Tennessee, they will be loud enough to make it sounds like the whole crowd is for Fox.

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  19. Weaver puts his second shot on the green, but he will have a lengthy birdie putt.

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  20. Fox's birdie putt comes up short.

    Weaver now has a birdie to win the hole. He lines it up for a long time, hits it, and NAILS IT!

    Weaver's birdie wins the hole.

    He is now 2 up with two to play.

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  21. Now we go to the 17th hole, one of the great holes in American golf. In the 1960 U.S. Open, Ben Hogan was in contention to win the championship before he went into the little steam of water that guards the 17th green and lost his last chance to win a the National Open.

    It is now a 560-yard par 5.

    Weaver pulls out his driver, to the horror of the NBC announcers, and promptly whacks the ball off toward some trees.

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  22. Weaver's drive ends up in the right-hand rough.

    Fox's drive goes into the intermediate rough.

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  23. Fox now has to decide whether to go for the island green. The NBC announcers remind us that in 1960, Hogan had reached 34 consecutive greens in regulation when he came to this hole in the last round. His shot to the 17th hole looked perfect -- but it had just too much backspin, and it rolled off the green and into the water.

    Fox decides to lay up. The NBC announcers agree with this approach.

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  24. Now Weaver is trying to decide what to do. In the morning round, he went for the island green and ended up in the water. The NBC announcers are very afraid he will go for the green again.

    But he does not. He wedges the ball into a lay-up position.

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  25. Fox hits a very nice pitch shot to the island green, and he will have a decent chance for a birdie.

    Weaver also reaches the green, but his birdie putt is somewhat more difficult.

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  26. Weaver is away, so he putts first for a birdie to win the match.

    He lines it up, strokes it, and misses. The ball rolls three-and-a-half feet past. If Fox misses his birdie putt, Weaver will have that par putt for victory.

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  27. Now here's Fox with what appears to be a must-make birdie putt. The NBC guys say that it's straight uphill.

    Fox putts, and MAKES IT! He wins the hole with that birdie.

    So Fox birdied the 33d hole, Weaver birdied the 34th, and now Fox has birdied the 35th.

    Weaver is now 1 up with one hole to play.

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  28. Now we come to the most famous hole on the course -- a 479-yard par 4 that requires you to hit a long carrying drive over a lake. What's tricky is that the longer you want your drive to be, the more likely you are to end up in the lake.

    Fox goes first. He hits a poor drive that goes across the lake, through the fairway, and up into the rough.

    Weaver's drive is almost perfect -- right down the fairway. He has a few anxious moments as it bounces toward the lake, but it stops will short.

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  29. NBC just clips from Tiger's three U.S. Amateur victories in 1994, 1995, and 1996. He won 18 matches in a row -- which would be unbelievable, except for the fact that Tiger is one of the greatest golfers who ever lived.

    I saw Tiger win the 1996 U.S. Amateur, and that is one of my all-time favorite moments as a sports fan.

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    1. Whenever I see Tiger Woods, I always think of Bob May (Class of '86!) and wonder about all those guys whose careers were punctuated by the one, big swing they took at the champ when he really was the champ.

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    2. If you asked me to pick the most Tiger Woods-like of all the Tiger Woods victories that I saw between 1996 and 2008 -- when Tiger was the greatest athlete I ever saw -- that's the one I would pick. He was uncanny that day.

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  30. Fox is in the rough, 189 yards from the green. He has to go for this, I think -- it does him no good to halve this hole.

    But the green is guarded by two bunkers, and it will be very difficult for him to get it there.

    Fox is normally a cautious golfer, and he seems to be uncomfortable with taking such a risky shot.

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  31. Fox reaches the green with a tremendous shot that lands on the front half of the green -- and does not run all the way through. But he is a long way from the hole.

    Fox, by the way, is wearing a UT-Chattnooga hat and shirt.

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  32. Weaver, who is wearing a Titleist hat and a Cal shirt, flies his approach all the way to the back of the green. He may be further away than Fox. There is a risk of a three-putt from there.

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  33. Weaver will putt first. As I thought, his putt is very difficult -- he literally has to roll the ball all the way across the green, which features a series of hills. The NBC guys think Weaver will do good to get the ball within 4 feet.

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  34. Weaver's putt runs about five feet past the hole.

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  35. Now it's Fox's putt to win the hole. His putt is mostly uphill all the way -- the greatest danger is that he will leave it short.

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  36. Fox makes a great putt -- for a second the crowd thought it was going in -- but it fades at the last minute.

    Fox's par is conceded, and now Weaver will have his par putt to win the match.

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  37. Weaver had lined his putt up perfectly, it appeared to be dead center, the crowd was about to explode -- and then the ball spun around the hole and rolled out. He had hit the ball too firmly.

    Fox wins the hole with a par to Weaver's bogey.

    After 36 holes, the match is ALL SQUARE.

    The crowd, and the NBC announcers, are stunned.

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  38. So now we go to the 1st hole, a 338-yd par 4.

    I was wrong before about the 18th being the most famous hole on the course. Actually, this is the most famous hole. In that 1960 U.S. Open -- which is probably the best golf tournament ever played -- Arnold Palmer teed off on the last round needing a spectacular score to get into contention. Furious at himself for his mediocre play, he drove the green on the short par 4. Thus inspired, he shot an amazing 65 to win his only National Open championship.

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  39. It looks to me like Weaver's ball hit something on that putt at 18. It started bouncing just before it got to the hole.

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  40. Fox, who is a conservative golfer at heart, does not try to emulate Palmer by going for the first green. He hits an iron off the tee and lays up short of the green.

    Weaver, still feeling the effects of that missed putt on 18, hits a drive that goes way off to the left. It bounds across the cart path behind the second tee. But Weaver still has a chance to pitch the ball back onto the first green.

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  41. Fox's pitch shot lands on the green. He will have a medium-size downhill putt for birdie.

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  42. This is our first time going to extra holes in the final since 2003.

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  43. In all three of Tiger Woods's finals, by the way, he was behind after 18 holes. He was 4 behind in 1994, 1 behind in 1995, and 5 behind in 1996.

    What an amazing career he has had.

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  44. Weaver tries to pitch his ball over the cart path, between a tree and a signpost, and onto the green. But he doesn't quite make it. His ball stops in the rough just at the edge of the green.

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  45. Weaver -- who has played each of his shots on this hole surprisingly quickly -- flubs his chip shot. The ball lands well short of the hole and he will have a very difficult par putt.

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  46. Now Fox has a birdie putt to win the match -- but knowing his temperament, I bet he's more concerned about securing his par.

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  47. I was wrong. Fox lines up his downhill putt, and watches it roll, roll, roll -- INTO THE HOLE!

    Steven Fox was two down with two holes to play. He won the 35th hole with a birdie, the 36th hole with a par, and the 37th hole with a birdie. THE MAN FROM UT-CHATTANOOGA IS NOW THE U.S. AMATEUR CHAMPION!

    Weaver walks off the green and slams his putter into his bag. He is literally in tears. And who can blame him?

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