BROOKLINE, Mass. -- For the first time in the history of the U.S. Amateur, international players have grabbed all four semi-final spots.
The semi-finalists are led by Matt Fitzpatrick from England.
If you were running a golf keeper league, of the eight players who made it to the quarterfinals, Matt Fitzpatrick would be the consensus top pick. He brings a glittering amateur resume to the competition, including low-am at this year's Open Championship, defending British Boys Champion and is ranked No. 2 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
If you were to walk up to him on the course, however, you would swear he belongs in an AJGA event. His self-description as small and sleight is accurate, and he looks younger than 18. But appearances can lie, and he is running roughshod over his competitors. With a 4 & 3 win over 19-year-old American Adam Ball, he has yet to see the 16th hole in match play.
Fitzpatrick plays a solid game, and his plan all week has been to hit fairways and greens and make pars. He said that if he patterns his game after anyone it is Henrik Stenson, and the two share a coach, Mike Walker, one of Pete Cowan's assistants. He says that he likes Stenson's game because it is solid all-around -- an answer, that much like his game, comes as a bit of a surprise to outsiders.
Fitzpatrick's semi-final opponent is Canadian Corey Conners, who strung together five pars in a row over a tough stretch on the course, Nos. 9-13, to go from all square to 5 Up in his match with co-medalist Neil Raymond. According to Conners, the key to his round was leaving the ball in the right spots to give himself easy up-and-downs.
The other semi-final is an all-Australian affair as Brady Watt came from behind to beat Scottie Scheffler. Scheffler made his fourth-ever ace and second in competitio, on the seventh hole, and made a fast downhill putt for birdie on the 10th to give himself a 2-up lead. From there, though, Watt flipped the come-from-behind script on Scheffler, winning No. 13 with a good two-putt par and then bringing the match to all square with a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on No. 15. On No. 18, he was able to get up-and-down from what he described as a buried lie.
"(It was) the worst one I've seen all week," Watt said. "But I didn't really need to do much with it, just needed to really just pop it out."
From there he holed the 5-footer for par and the win.
Watt's opponent in the match will be his good friend, Oliver Goss, who beat Brandon Mathews 5 & 3 with a birdie on No. 15 to close out his match. The two players are both products of Golf Australia and have played each other on numerous occasions, with Goss getting the upper hand in the last three, including a five-hole playoff win in their most recent encounter in the Men's West Australian Open.
Prior to their match, the two, who are staying with the same host family, will attend the Red Sox-Yankees game tonight. And while they are happy for each others success, they will both be trying their best to win tomorrow.
While one cannot imagine that the USGA is particularly pleased with the lack of Americans in the final four, those American players who are on the Walker Cup bubble are probably resting a little easier. With a spot on the team no longer being (unofficially) held for the winner of the U.S. Amateur, there are three spots open for American amateurs in the non-mid-am division.
That decision is set to be made later this weekend. For now, there is a prestigious amateur trophy on the line and, in tomorrow's matches, a likely bid to the Masters.
When asked if it will be difficult tomorrow just because of everything on the line Fitzpatrick said, “It will be difficult, yeah, obviously.”
"You cannot sort of just say it's like the first round because certainly it's not."
With so much at stake tomorrow, the semi-finals promise to be difficult for everybody.