__ERIN, Wis.—Does__Patrick Cantlay have another comeback in him?
That's what it's going to require if the top-ranked amateur in the country wants to beat Kelly Kraft and cap off an impressive summer by claiming the U.S. Amateur title this afternoon at Erin Hills GC after Kraft took a 2-up lead during the opening 18 holes.
Kraft, a 21-year-old from Denton, Texas, who finished up his college eligibility at SMU in the spring, looked poised through most of the morning round, making the equivalent of just one bogey and four birdies (with match-play concessions) through the first 17 holes. Conversely, Cantlay, a rising sophomore from UCLA who had four top-25 finishes in PGA Tour events this summer, struggled a bit off the tee, hitting just eight of 14 fairways.
Kraft's lead was as large as 4 up when on the par-3 16th hole Cantlay hit his tee shot into a greenside bunker and then failed to get his second shot out of the sand. Before Cantlay hit his third shot his caddie began raking the bunker. Believing that was a penalty, Cantlay conceded Kraft's birdie (his tee shot was eight feet from the hole). Jim Hyler, president of the USGA and the rules official for the match, informed Cantlay it wasn't a penalty but Kraft won the hole because Cantlay had already conceded the birdie.
Cantlay bounced back from the lapse, however, rolling in a 60-foot birdie putt through 10 feet of fringe to win the 17th hole. He then hung on to win a wild 18th hole with a bogey when Kraft had his biggest hiccup of the morning, making a triple-bogey 8 after a wayward tee shot, a third shot into a bunker and more struggles around the green.
Twice this week Cantlay have been 2 down with two holes to play, only to rally and win the 17th and 18th and then close out the matches in extra holes.
There was a new rooting section for Kraft in the Sunday gallery. A half dozen members of the SMU golf team flew up from Dallas Saturday night and greeted their former teammate on the first tee. Throughout the round, the Mustangs shouted words of encouragement.
The afternoon portion of the 36-hole final is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. Central time.