News & ToursJune 16, 2010

How might the amateurs fare at the U.S. Open

__PEBBLE BEACH --__As rare as it has been lately for an amateur to make the cut at the Masters (in April, Matteo Manassero was the first one to do it in five years), playing on the weekend at the U.S. Open has become pretty much an annual occurrence for the play-for-pride set.

Since 1997, at least one amateur has made the cut in every U.S. Open with the exception of 2006 and 2007. At Bethpage Black a year ago, three amateurs out of the 15 that competed played all 72 holes with Nick Taylor earning low amateur honors with a T-36 finish.

This time around 10 amateur are in the field at Pebble Beach (Alex Martin qualified as an amateur but decided make the U.S. Open his pro debut). So who has the best chance of joining the eventual champion at Sunday's awards ceremony? Here's a look at the contenders and their odds of making the championship more than a two-day affair.

Bennett Blakeman, 23, Burr Ridge, Ill.

__How he qualified:__Medalist at Woodstock, Ill., sectional qualifier

Odds of making the cut: 75-1

Skinny: A graduate of Division III Illinois Wesleyan in 2009, Blakeman attends graduate school at Loyola (Ill.) and is currently an intern at Cardiac Surgery Associates outside of Chicago. He almost gave himself a heart attack when he managed to get through sectional qualifying, this after struggling to get invitations into amateur events this summer. He says the biggest tournament he's played in before this is the Illinois Amateur and the NCAA D-III championship, so nerves are likely to be a factor.

Kevin Phelan, 19, St. Augustine, Fla.

__How he qualified:__Co-medalist at Hobe Sound, Fla., sectional qualifier

Odds of making the cut: 50-1

__Skinny:__The Irish-born golfer, who just finished his freshman year at North Florida, moved to the U.S. seven years ago. Not surprisingly, then, he revealed his favorite golfer is Padraig Harrington. To get to play in the same field with his countryman, Phelan holed a flop shot for an eagle on his last hole at the sectional qualifier. Consider Phelan among the "just happy to be here" crowd.

Andrew Putnam, 21, University Place, Wash.

How he qualified: 4th at Sacramento, Calif., sectional qualifier

Odds of making the cut: 30-1

Skinny: The Pepperdine senior-to-be is following in the footsteps of his older brother, Michael, who qualified for the U.S. Open as an amateur in 2005. It's the first time two brothers have played in the championship as amateurs since Trip (2003) and Hank Kuehne (1999). A year ago, Putnam was in the worst slump of his golf career after twice earning All-American honors. By qualifying for Pebble Beach, he earns an exemption into this August's U.S. Amateur, being held less than a mile from his house at Chambers Bay.

Morgan Hoffmann, 21, Wyckoff, N.J.

__How he qualified: T-6 at Memphis sectional qualifier

Odds of making the cut:__ 20-1

__Skinny:__The Oklahoma State All-American and member of the 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team earned his spot in the field at Pebble Beach less than 24 hours after losing  his match with Augusta State's Henrik Norlander, 5 and 4, in the final round of the NCAA Championship. His ability to put behind the disappointment of losing the NCAA title was impressive. So is his golf game when he's playing well ... the question is whether that's the case this week.

Joseph Bramlett, 22, Saratoga, Calif.

__How he qualified:__2nd at Sacramento, Calif., sectional qualifier

Odds of making the cut: 15-1

Skinny: Bramlett is no stranger to the area or to USGA events (in 2002 he became the youngest qualifier for the U.S. Amateur). He just got his degree from Stanford on Sunday, making playing in the Open arguably the coolest graduation gift you could ever get. Bramlett is finally healthy again after two years dealing with injuries to his right wrist. His play has been inconsistent of late, however, otherwise we'd give him better odds at making the cut.

Byeong-Hun An, 18, Bradenton, Fla.

__How he qualified:__U.S. Amateur champion

Odds of making the cut: 10-1

Skinny: The soon-to-be freshman at California has another marquee group to play in, teeing it up with U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover and British Open champion Stewart Cink. An handled his pairing at the Masters (playing with 2009 champ Angel Cabrera) rather well, despite the missed cut, and looks more comfortable playing beside the pros for a second time.

Ben Martin, 22, Greenwood, S.C.

__How he qualified:__U.S. Amateur runner-up

Odds of making the cut: 10-1

Skinny: No amateur has more experience in major championships than Martin, who played in last year's Open at Bethpage and in the Masters last April. He just closed out his college career at Clemson earlier this month, finishing T-9 at the NCAA Championship. His game is in the best shape it has been since last summer's experience at the U.S. Amateur, giving you reason to believe the third time will be the charm in terms of making the cut.

Hudson Swafford, 22, Tallahasee, Fla.

__How he qualified:__Co-medalist at Memphis sectional qualifier

Odds of making the cut: 10-1

__Skinny:__After having labrum surgery last summer, the would be University of Georgia senior decided to redshirt during the 2009-10 season so as to give himself time to heal and rehab. Yet by early this spring, Swafford was practicing full shots and says his game is back to 100 percent. Apparently so as Swafford shot a 132 at the Memphis qualifier, beating nearly 100 pros, including several in the field at last week's PGA Tour stop in Memphis.

Russell Henley, 21, Macon, Ga.

How he qualified: Medalist at Roswell, Ga., sectional qualifier

Odds of making the cut: 7-1

Skinny: The Georgia junior was the SEC player of the year in 2010, winning the conference individual championship and then earning medalist honors at the NCAA regional in Texas. He and his Bulldog teammate Hudson Swafford had a friendly game going with Clemson grads Lucas Glover and Charles Warren during a practice round, not a bad way to get comfortable at Pebble Beach when you're playing with the defending champion.

Scott Langley, 21, Manchester, Mo.

How he qualified: Medalist at St. Louis sectional qualifier

Odds of making the cut: 7-1

__Skinny:__There isn't an amateur golfer in the field that is on more of a roll of late than Langley. His victory at the NCAA Championship earlier this month preceded his qualifying for the Open. The lefty isn't likely to be intimidated by the surroundings even though this is his first major championship.

--* Ryan Herrington*

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