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Thursday, June 12, 2008

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Amateur Hour

by David Shefter   USGA

No amateurs made the cut at Winged Foot in 2006. None survived in 2007 at Oakmont, although Mark Harrell was poised to do so until Angel Cabrera dropped a birdie putt at the ninth, his last of the round, late Friday afternoon to send a bunch of guys packing, including the University of Alabama standout.

It looks like the amateurs won't suffer the same fate in 2008 at Torrey Pines. Rickie Fowler leads the way after a brilliant 1-under 70. Then again, we should never be shocked about a Fowler performance. He was the youngest member of the victorious 2007 USA Walker Cup team and a year earlier, he took out one of the college golf's best players, Pablo Martin, in the third round of the U.S. Amateur at Hazeltine. This year, he won the Ben Hogan and Phil Mickelson awards, led Oklahoma State to a fourth-place finish at the NCAAs and was fourth individually.

Kyle Stanley, a fellow member of that Walker Cup team, carded a 72 and University of Louisville All-American Derek Fathauer, who was a semifinalist at the 2007 U.S. Amateur Public Links and quarterfinalist at the '07 Amateur, posted a 73. Michael Thompson, the 2007 Amateur runner-up, added a 74. He just missed making the cut at the Masters in April.

Even Kevin Tway, the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and son of PGA Tour player Bob Tway, has a shot after registering a 76.

The best recent finish by an amatuer came in 2004 when Spencer Levin tied for 13th at Shinnecock Hills. You have to go back to Jim Simons in 1971 at Merion for the last top-5 effort by an amateur. Simons owned the 54-hole lead. Jack Nicklaus tied for fourth in 1961 and finished second in 1960. He won the championship in 1962, his first season as a pro.


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