Thursday, June 12

Amateur Hour at the 2014 U.S. Open

Amateur Matthew Fitzpatrick. (©USGA/Hunter Martin)
RIDING IN TO PINEHURST THIS MORNING, I was thinking about the "Open" part of the U.S. Open. Technically, it's correct. Anyone, amateur or pro, can attempt to qualify to play in the U.S. Open. It's definitely "open" in that sense, but, in truth, the era of top amateurs being able to compete with tour pros is long gone.

The last amateur to win the U.S. Open was Johnny Goodman in Chicago. When? 1933. Or 81 years ago.

When I arrived at the media center, a young man was on the large screen flanked by two leaderboards. The boyish-looking 19-year-old wore a navy blue shirt and looked like he should be carrying a scoreboard. Instead, he was standing in the fairway assessing his next shot from Pinehurst's bermuda fairway.

Matthew Fitzpatrick is from Sheffield, England, and playing in his first U.S. Open. He is the reigning U.S. Amateur champion.

Beginning on the back nine, Fitzpatrick carded three birdies against two bogeys to post a 1-under 35. He added a birdie at the par-4 2nd hole to reach -2 for the championship, one stroke off Matt Kuchar's lead at the time. Now a bogey has dropped him to -1, but he's currently just a shot off the lead shared by Kevin Na, Kuchar, Graeme McDowell and Phil Mickelson.

There are 12 amateurs in the U.S. Open field. Some, like Fitzpatrick, may play well and make the cut. For any to hang around until Sunday and contend for the championship would be surprising. And a U.S. Open win by an amateur in this age of international tour pros would be a monumental and wholly unexpected achievement.

It's a fanciful thought on a Thursday.

As I write this, the U.S. Amateur champion has made two consecutive bogeys. Johnny Goodman is safe for now. Although I expect Goodman would like to see another amateur hoist the silver trophy. It's not going to happen in this modern age of the U.S. Open, except maybe in young men's dreams and made-up stories.

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