Will an amateur make the cut at the U.S. Open?
LA JOLLA, CALIF.--History suggests at least one of the now 11 amateurs in the field at the U.S. Open (first alternate Gary Wolstenholme is in after Sean O'Hair withdrew this afternoon) will play all four rounds at Torrey Pines GC. In 2006 and 2007 no amateur made the cut, and never in the championship's 113 years has there been more than a two-year stretch where the USGA has failed to see an amateur play the entire tournament.
So if an amateur is going to play all 72 holes this week, who might it be? Lets start by eliminating those who are the least likely. Wolstenholme has had a storied amateur career but the 47-year-old Englishman just doesn't hit it far enough to have much success on the 7,643-yard layout. Ditto to fellow mid-amateur Jeff Wilson, who at 36 was the low amateur at the 2000 U.S. Open. Now 44, the extra candles on the birthday cake aren't helping the California native.
Jimmy Henderson is an interesting story--the 31-year-old AstroTurf salesman got his amateur status back just days before playing in local qualifying last month. But if there's a textbook example of a guy who is just happy to be here, it's the Lebanon, Ohio, native.
Duke senior-to-be Michael Quagliano and recent Louisville graduate Derek Fathauer are solid players but the magnitude of competing in their first major championship would seem to be too much to overcome. Stanford's Jordan Cox is a raw talent who you will see down the road on the PGA Tour, but he's a year or two away from making the cut at a major. Washington's Nick Taylor tied for second at the NCAA Championship two weeks ago and is the Canadian Amateur champion, but he too seems to need more seasoning.
That leaves four collegians to consider: Michael Thompson,Kevin Tway,Rickie Fowler and Kyle Stanley. Thompson, a recent Alabama graduate, has a major under his belt, having played at the Masters in April. Having experienced the hoopla surrounding such an event already, he won't be in awe by all the stuff surrounding the tournament. The problem however is that Thompson hasn't been very sharp of late (T-65 at the Central Regional; T-29 at the NCAA Championship). Suffice it to say, the U.S. Open isn't the venue to be trying to get your game back.
Conversely, Tway finished up his freshman season at Oklahoma State strongly (won Central Regional) and has his PGA Tour veteran dad, Bob, on his bag. The combination should let the 19-year-old make a run at playing on the weekend but likely come up just short.
As for Tway's college roommate, Fowler, and Stanley, they seem to have everything in order to be the ones contending for low amateur honors. Fowler's roller coaster week to just get into the event (lost playoff for one of the last spots into the Open, only to get in as an alternate) ended with him defending his title at the Sunnehanna Amateur last weekend. He might be a little tired, but he's talented enough to overcome it.
Stanley, a junior-to-be at Clemson, impressed many by having a miserable final round at the NCAA Championship (started two off the lead, then shot an 82) only to bounce back at sectional qualifying and earn his spot here at Torrey Pines. A member of the victorious 2007 U.S. Walker Cup team, he hits the ball a mile, is straight enough to avoid the killer kikuyu and, ultimately, will give us a two-player race for the title of low amateur.