Following the major season for the PGA, the future of golf takes center stage at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia. The USGA Amateur Championship kicked off earlier this week, but match play officially started on Wednesday.
Notable faces like Nathan Smith and Beau Hossler were in the running, one of whom was eliminated early on. The emerging stars will look to add their names to the list of past winners, which includes the likes of Tiger Woods, a three-time winner, and Ryan Moore.
One player who came in with plenty of confidence is No. 1 amateur player Ollie Schniederjans. The Georgia Tech golfer boasted about his play and what he expects during match play, per Steve Eubanks of Global Golf Post:
I still have the mentality that I’m supposed to win this tournament. I’m the No. 1 player in the world and I’m playing in my hometown. Who else is supposed to win this tournament besides me, right? I think other people think that too, and that’s something I have to deal with.
The tournament started earlier with stroke play as Lee McCoy and Taylor Moore tied for first at eight-under during the two rounds. Given the talented field, match play is up for grabs by any player.
As the tournament heats up in match play, here's a look at the daily leaderboard and analysis from the riveting action.
Day 5 of Match Play
|Gunn Yang||Corey Conners||2-and-1|
Gunn Yang defeated Corey Conners in Sunday's final round to win the U.S. Amateur championship by the score of 2-and-1.
USGA tweeted the result:
Yang wasted no time racing out to an early lead, birdieing the opening two holes to take a two-stroke lead early on. He would hold onto that lead throughout the opening 18 holes, having it dwindle down to one stroke.
His lead didn't last forever, though. Conners continued to stick around and just past the halfway point, he knotted things up on the 19th hole to put the pressure on. Things would stay square until the 24th, when Yang holed a birdie and he took a two-stroke lead one hole later when Conners bogeyed.
Yang took his two-stroke lead into a weather delay, and although Conners reduced his deficit, he couldn't completely overcome it and Yang was named champion after the 35th hole.
The win was quite the improbable one for Yang, who had much lower aspirations than winning it all when he began play.
“I was just trying to make it to the match-play portion, really,” said Yang, per USGA.org's Pete Kowalski. “That was the goal, first of all. And then when I made it to the match play, I was like, maybe I can do this. I was just trying to go through by every single match, just trying to play my game and trying to see how it goes, and I got the trophy. So, I'm really excited and really happy about it.”
Jason Sobel of Golf Channel is a fan of much more than Yang's name:
Gunn Yang is the 2014 U.S. Amateur champion. Great name, great playing by the world's 776th-ranked amateur.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) August 17, 2014
The win could be transformative for Yang's young career. The victory qualifies him for next year's U.S. Open.
It would be a stretch to assume he'll contend in next year's major appearance, but the experience in itself should be valuable for Yang. And after all, he's already surprised on one big stage. Why not another?
Day 4 of Match Play
|Gunn Yang||Frederick Wedel||19 holes|
|Corey Conners||Denny McCarthy||1-up|
Saturday featured two matches between four golfers vying for a coveted spot in the U.S. Amateur finals. These semifinal contests proved to be just as action packed and dramatic as we had hoped—each came down to the bitter end.
Ryan Lavner of the Golf Channel tweeted the world rankings for each of the remaining amateurs:
World ranking of the 4 #USAmateur semifinalists: Fred Wedel (619)-Gunn Yang (776); Corey Conners (44)-Denny McCarthy (36).— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) August 15, 2014
Unfortunately for the Americans, the results saw the departure of the final two golfers from the United States in its own amateur tournament. They put up some fine efforts on Saturday, but the competition was fierce.
Gunn Yang continued his improbable run by defeating Frederick Wedel in 19 holes on Day 4.
Yang birdied two of his first four holes on the day to quickly jump out to a two-hole advantage. However, that wouldn't hold for long, as Yang quickly found two water hazards over the next several holes, leading to a loss of the lead.
Here's a look at Yang hitting his drop after finding the hazard, via Golf Week's Instagram account:
On the back side, Yang drew even with Wedel through the 15th hole, and the match remained that way through the 18th. Forced into extra holes, Yang didn't take long to finally close out the match, birdieing the first extra hole to earn the win.
Lavner tweeted the impressive and improbable result:
Gunn Yang -- the 776th-ranked amateur in the world -- punches the 1st ticket to the #USAmateur finals. Beats Fred Wedel in 19 holes.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) August 16, 2014
After his performance, Yang exuded some confidence when speaking of his recent play, via USGA:
Canadian Corey Conners got off to a fast start in the day's second match, recording a birdie on the first hole to swiftly gain a one-hole advantage over Denny McCarthy. He would increase his lead further, but a birdie from McCarthy saw the match head to the back nine all square.
Conners really turned it on during the first several holes of the back side, playing solid golf en route to a two-hole lead through the 14th hole. McCarthy fought back, but couldn't make up enough ground against his opponent, eventually taking the close loss.
Here's what Conners had to say following his round on Saturday, via USGA:
While Yang and Conners will compete for the title on Sunday, they have already punched their tickets to two of golf's most prestigious events. Lavner tweeted the details:
Final match of #USAmateur is set: Corey Conners vs. Gunn Yang. Both players already receive spots in Masters, US Open.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) August 16, 2014
Before they participate in those events, they will first face off in what promises to be an exciting 36-hole final. Dave Shedloski of Golf World noted the absence of Americans in the final over the last couple of years:
Second straight year US Amateur 36-hole final populated by 2 foreign-born players. Gunn Yang of Korea vs. Corey Conners of Canada.— Dave Shedloski (@DaveShedloski) August 16, 2014
Regardless, the best two players advanced, and based on the way they're playing right now, we're certainly in for a drama-filled, action-packed conclusion to this year's U.S. Amateur on Sunday.
Day 3 of Match Play
|Frederick Wedel||Nathan Smith||4 and 3|
|Gunn Yang||Cameron Young||2-up|
|Corey Conners||Zachary Olsen||2 and 1|
|Denny McCarthy||Roman Robledo||3 and 2|
Day 3 began with a very intriguing matchup, as the red-hot Nathan Smith took on the long-hitting Frederick Wedel. Right out of the gate, Wedel cooled off the surging Smith, winning the very first hole to take a one-hole lead.
Wedel continued to utilize the long ball to increase his lead through the first nine holes. USGA noted his advantage off the tee:
Wedel has been consistently longer off the tee today, using that to his advantage to take a 2-up lead on Smith through 9 holes. #USAmateur— USGA (@USGA) August 15, 2014
Soon after, Wedel put Smith in a precarious position. Smith suddenly found himself down four holes with just four to play. He would have to win out to force a playoff. After a draw on the following hole, Wedel advanced to the semifinals:
Gunn Yang continued his improbable run in the U.S. Amateur on Friday, earning yet another victory. Why is his run defined as improbable? This tweet from Golf World pretty much sums it up:
World number one amateur Ollie Schniederjans knocked out US Amateur by number 776 Gunn Yang. That's like Yuki Inamori beating Rory. Kind of.— Golf World (@GolfWorld1) August 15, 2014
Yang continued his streak in a close match against Cameron Young, as the two golfers competed in a roller-coaster round which actually saw Young take a brief lead after the 12th hole:
Cameron Young moves to 1 up on Gunn Yang after getting up & down from bunker on 12. Yang went well right, misses par try. #USAmateur— USGA (@USGA) August 15, 2014
The lead didn't last long. With Young missing a par putt on No. 14, Yang two-putted for an easy par to get the match back to all square.
Yang took the lead, but he was severely tested by Young late in the match, as he required a bit of luck to close it out:
The writing may have been on the wall for the day's third match, as Canadian Corey Conners took a one-hole lead through nine holes and the USGA noted his prowess on the course's back nine:
That dominance continued on Friday. Conners was very steady while navigating the back nine. His shining moment came in the form of an eagle on the par-five 16th hole to increase his lead to two holes.
With the match dormie, he remained solid through No. 17, taking the win and advancing to the semifinals.
The final match of the day featured a surging Denny McCarthy. Roman Robledo played some stellar golf earlier in the week, but couldn't quite keep up with McCarthy's big day.
Right out of the gate, McCarthy began to pour it on, leading by three through five holes. He didn't need to do much more than play well enough to match Robledo from there, and that's exactly what happened.
USGA noted McCarthy's impressive performance:
Denny McCarthy never trailed in his quarterfinal match with Roman Robledo, winning 3 and 2 to advance to the #USAmateur semifinals.— USGA (@USGA) August 15, 2014
After closing out the match without trailing at any point, McCarthy shared his thoughts during a press conference, via Rob Coleman of GlobalGolfPost.com:
"It was nice to get the monkey off my back, just getting past the first rounds." - Denny McCarthy #USAmateur— Rob Coleman (@RobAtThePost) August 15, 2014
The U.S. Amateur continues to be one of the most befuddling tournaments each year, as the match play format provides a fighting chance for any golfer—no matter his ranking.
Be sure to stay tuned for Saturday's semifinal contests, as the four remaining players bid for a berth in the tournament's coveted final match.
Day 2 of Match Play
|Nathan Smith||Brandon McIver||4 and 3|
|Byron Meth||Trevor Phillips||5 and 4|
|Jimmy Mullen||Justin Tereshko||23 holes|
|Frederick Wedel||Derek Bard||2 and 1|
|Kyle Jones||Garrett Rank||2 and 1|
|Cameron Young||Isaiah Logue||2-up|
|Ollie Schniederjans||Sam Burns||20 holes|
|Gunn Yang||Paul Howard||1-up|
|Corey Conners||Jesse Heinly||4 and 3|
|Jon Rahm||Rico Hoey||3 and 2|
|Will Zalatoris||Mario Galiano||4 and 2|
|Zachary Olsen||Bo Andrews||4 and 3|
|Bryson DeChambeau||Cheng-Tsung Pan||2-up|
|Roman Robledo||Robby Shelton||1-up|
|Denny McCarthy||Jonathan Chang||5 and 3|
|Eli Cole||Jonathan Garrick||1-up|
One of the most intriguing matchups on Thursday was between two young players in the field.
No. 1 Schniederjans needed 20 holes to take down Sam Burns, but he eventually pulled out a huge win. Cassie Stein of Golf Week noted the tight victory for Schniederjans following the round:
World-No. 1 Ollie Schniederjans survives a scare from Sam Burns in Round of 32; stays alive with a win in 20 holes. #USAmateur— Cassie Stein (@GolfweekCassie) August 14, 2014
While Burns won't be advancing to play on Friday, the Shreveport, Louisiana, native put up a great effort against the top amateur player. Burns shared his thoughts on the tournament following his round on Twitter:
A week I'll never forget, can't thank everyone enough for all of the support! So grateful for the opportunity to play the #USAmateur— Sam Burns (@Samburns66) August 14, 2014
Burns might have tested Schniederjans, but it certainly wasn't the longest match of the early round.
Jimmy Mullen of England was looking to be one of the final remaining international players to advance to the third round of play. The 20-year-old, who made the cut at the 2013 British Open, needed a full 23 holes to get past Justin Tereshko.
The USGA account noted the finish of the tight round:
Mullen and Schniederjans may have advanced after two exciting matches, but they will have to play another round on Thursday. With Gunn Yang finishing one-up to move on, the Korean player faced Schniederjans after his exhausting round.
|Nathan Smith||Byron Meth||21 holes|
|Frederick Wedel||Jimmy Mullen||2 and 1|
|Cameron Young||Kyle Jones||1 up|
|Gunn Yang||Ollie Schniederjans||1 up|
|Corey Conners||Jon Rahm||3 and 1|
|Zachary Olsen||Will Zalatoris||5 and 3|
|Roman Robledo||Bryson DeChambeau||3 and 1|
|Denny McCarthy||Eli Cole||1 up|
That turnaround proved to be too much for the No. 1 player as he bowed out against Gunn. After a solid start from both players, Gunn was able to pull away late thanks to an onslaught of birdies.
Ryan Lavner of the Golf Channel notes the strong finish from Gunn:
Birdie-birdie-birdie finish by Gunn Yang knocks out world No. 1 am Ollie Schniederjans in the #USAmateur Round of 16.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) August 14, 2014
The San Diego State athletics account congratulated the young player from the program:
Shout out to Gunn Yang of @mensgolfSDSU for reaching the quarterfinals at U.S. Amateur. Yang won his round-of-16 match this afternoon, 1 up.— GoAztecs.com (@GoAztecs) August 14, 2014
Along with Gunn, Corey Conners was the only other international player to advance to the round of eight after Thursday's action. Nathan Smith also advanced to the next round after playing 21 holes with Byron Meth.
Just eight players remain in the tournament, so the play will take yet another step up on Friday. As each remaining golfer looks to lock up a spot in the semifinal, youth and experience will collide again ahead of the weekend.
Day 1 of Match Play
|Nathan Smith||Lee McCoy||19 Holes|
|Brandon McIver||Doug Ghim||2 and 1|
|Trevor Phillips||Guillermo Pereira||4 and 3|
|Byron Meth||Emilio Cuartero||6 and 5|
|Jimmy Mullen||Todd White||1-up|
|Justin Tereshko||Xander Schauffele||7 and 6|
|Frederick Wedel||Carson Jacobs||5 and 4|
|Derek Bard||Zander Lombard||3 and 2|
|Garrett Rank||Jimmy Beck||1-up|
|Kyle Jones||Logan McCracken||2 and 1|
|Isaiah Logue||Sam Horsfield||2 and 1|
|Cameron Young||Tyler Torano||19 holes|
|Sam Burns||Matt Nesmith||2 and 1|
|Ollie Schniederjans||Matt Teesdale||6 and 5|
|Paul Howard||Gavin Green||4 and 3|
|Gunn Yang||Seth Reeves||1-up|
|Jesse Heinly||Taylor Moore||3 and 2|
|Corey Conners||Scottie Scheffler||1-up|
|John Rahm||Beau Hossler||3 and 2|
|Rico Hoey||Taylor Funk||3 and 2|
|Will Zalatoris||Jordan Niebrugge||2 and 1|
|Mario Galiano||M.J. Maguire||2 and 1|
|Bo Andrews||Chris Waters||5 and 4|
|Zachary Olsen||Adam Svensson||2 and 1|
|Cheng-Tsung Pan||Zach Healy||4 and 2|
|Bryson DeChambeau||Victor Perez||2 and 1|
|Robby Shelton||Dan Stringfellow||2 and 1|
|Roman Robledo||Mookie DeMoss||1-up|
|Jonathan Garrick||Michael Gellerman||3 and 2|
|Eli Cole||Will Betts||3 and 2|
|Jonathan Chang||Taylor Pendrith||4 and 2|
|Denny McCarthy||Jonathan Woo||7 and 5|
After blistering through the field during stroke play, McCoy was dropped in the opening round of match play.
Smith, an experienced golfer in the field, dismissed the Georgia golfer in 19 holes. The oldest golfer remaining, the 36-year-old Smith has won four USGA Mid-Amateur Championships but was the final player to make the 64-player field.
McCoy spoke about playing the veteran golfer, per Pete Kowalski of USGA.org:
I saw the list and I saw four-time Mid-Am winner and a guy that's played in the Masters four times, and I was like, I get to play the grizzled veteran in the first round, fantastic. I don't think he had his best stuff today and neither did I. I didn't play nearly as well as I did the last two days. He made some incredible up-and-downs and he just scored unbelievably well, like a veteran would.
Outside of the victory by Smith, a young star continued a great summer with a win of his own. Will Zalatoris, who has already won three amateur tournaments this season, took his opening-round match against Jordan Niebrugge.
The 17-year-old has been playing sensational golf and continued that trend against the Walker Cup team member. Zalatoris noted his great play under the circumstances, via Adam Schupak of Golf Week: “I’m the No. 7 seed and I’m playing a Walker Cupper,” Zalatoris said. “But the part that I love is the pressure. I thrive on it.”
The USGA also pointed out the victory for Zalatoris on Wednesday:
In total, 32 players advanced to the second round of match play on Wednesday with multiple notable names on the list. Both Smith and Zalatoris will have a tough road ahead with the likes of No. 1 Schniederjans and other top players in the final bracket.
As Smith yet again proved that he can compete on the big stage, the veteran looks likely to make a late run. But as the weekend approaches, look for the young stars to work their way to the end of the prestigious USGA tournament.
* Full list of live scores and results can be found at USGA.com.