GOLF

In a strange US Amateur, could conditions similar to the US Open be the cause?

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Alex Price wasn’t the only US Am competitor to find disaster Thursday at Ridgewood.

USGA

PARAMUS, NJ — Even by upside-down American amateur standards, things at Ridgewood have been wildly unpredictable.

After two rounds of move play and four rounds of match play, the underdogs not only crush their top-ranked competition, but the entire tournament as well. Only one single-digit seed remains from the field of 64, and the cast of characters who have knocked down three of the top five amateurs in the world and all but one of the presumptive tournament favorites include the 707th-ranked amateur, the 1,212th- I am ranked and a 34 year old lead band enthusiast.

Gone are the names like Travis Vick, Gordon Sargent and Michael Thorbjornsen – a group widely seen as the “future” of professional golf – replaced by a group of players who don’t even have a profile portrait available on the World Amateur Golf Site. of classification.

Yes, the US Amateur is a match-play event, and yes, match play is where golf’s big wheel of meritocracy spins fastest. But if this week really is a meritocracy, why do so many so-called top players spend the weekend at home? If the format isn’t the cause, then what is?

There will be no doubt that Ridgewood is a championship test from anyone on the court this week. With a hilly length of 7,400 meters and a width of 20 meters, the course is as big and bad as it is agile and full of teeth. For this week’s US Amateur, greens staff narrowed the fairways and increased the rough – up to five inches in some places – while a drought in the area helped firm up the already smooth putting surfaces to what at least three players estimated to be “a 13 or 14” on the Stimpmeter on Thursday.

These would be considered similar conditions to the US Open, if the conditions at the real The US Open in June is not a bit easier, at least on paper. (The Country Club played just 7,200 yards and its greens rolled to 12.5.) All of this begs an important question: In a format already built for chaos, could the course conditions at the US Amateur be benefiting the outsiders?

“I think in some ways, in some ways, courses like this can play easier than just a super soft course,” offered Alex Price, who made it to the quarter-finals of the US Am despite being 1,212th in the world. “I always like to take up the challenge. I always felt like I played better on the tougher courses. I love that it’s not just a birdie fest – having to hit golf shots, get your ball in the right spot. If you know how to use the slopes and know how to play with the conditions, I think you will do very well.

Price had no illusions of dominating Ridgewood. Division III golf team member Christopher Newport University in Virginia, the ball speed discrepancy between Price and his 6-foot-8 round 32 opponent Christo Lamprecht is like the one between the cul de sac outside the Ridgewood clubhouse and the left lane of the Jersey Turnpike. And yet, it was Price who made it to 2 in the pair’s game on the 573-yard 3rd hole, a mammoth par-5 that on many other courses would have played directly to his opponent’s advantage.

On this hole, Lamprecht ignored the main fairway and directed his drive to the adjacent fairway, hoping to reduce the angle and hit the green in half. Instead, he split the two fairways, his ball coming to rest deep in the good rough. Rather than take his meds, Lamprecht compounded his error by throwing his second shot into one of the large branches of an oak tree and heading straight back down into the rough. He would go on to make 6 on the hole, while Price played the par-5 as three shots and made a tidy par.

“I think the way you have to approach this hole, especially in matchplay, you can never put yourself out of the hole – never do anything that’s just going to give your opponent the hole,” Price told me more late. “So whatever course of action you can take to make sure you’re going to at least get a good par look and probably even a good birdie look, you have to do that.”

In fact, Price and Lamprecht were the third of three straight groups to learn that lesson on Thursday morning. In this sequence, none of the three winners on the third hole did better than par, and notably, none of the winners played a shot from the rough.

Clean golf is a common theme among those who made it to the US Am, but if there’s consensus, it’s luck. With conditions as they are, there are many ways to decide one’s own fate in Ridgewood, but no way to control it.

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“Obviously here if you’re accurate all day on the fairways it would be pretty easy,” Australian Hayden Hopewell said. “But you need a bit of luck when you miss a fairway because everyone is going to miss a fairway. If you can keep it out of that thick stuff, that makes it a little easier.

“You’re going to have to pull some luck and some lies down the rough and missing fairways,” agreed Andrew Von Lossow. “There were a number of times I couldn’t see my ball in the rough or around the greens. Just hit it and pray.

Von Lossow is perhaps the biggest amateur Cinderella story of 2022. The 34-year-old midmorning and owner of a popular Instagram feed dedicated to the lead band (@leadtapechronicles) came along for the week of Spokane, Washington, with the long-term goal of making it into the top 64 players in the squad. On Wednesday he outdid himself, upsetting Thornbjornsen to earn a bid in the Round of 16 before losing on the final hole of Thursday morning’s match against Ben Carr.

Maybe Von Lossow had a chance to advance as far as he did, but he certainly didn’t feel that way leaving the 18th green Thursday.

“Playing this kind of course is so difficult. Any little shot here can hit a ridge and go off the green or something,” Von Lossow said. “The lines are so fine. You can’t press, but you know you need it. You just have to accept what will happen.

Perhaps that’s the true impact of course conditions like those at US Am – not by giving any particular player an advantage, but by creating an already random event. way more random. Maybe that means an advantage for the underdogs, or maybe it’s something much simpler.

“It’s just match play,” Price said, smiling as wide as his quarter-final chances were just five days ago. “Once we are here, we are all equal. Once in the top 64, anything can happen.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is associate editor at GOLF, contributing articles to the website and magazine. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and uses his experience broadcasting across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and obviously, his golf game — is still thawing after four years in the snow. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddy scholarship recipient (and crafty looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.

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