By Andrew Both
PINEHURST, N.C. (Reuters) – Japan’s Takumi Kanaya beat German Matthias Schmid at the U.S. Amateur championship on Wednesday in a heavyweight battle between two giants of their respective continents.
Asia-Pacific Amateur champion Kanaya sank a 12-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole on the Pinehurst No.2 course to tie up his match with European Amateur titleholder Schmid and force a playoff.
The German then made a complete mess of the first extra hole and conceded the match after taking four shots to reach the green at the par-four.
During regulation, the 21-year-old from Hiroshima had been outdriven by some 50 yards by the powerful Matthias and he knew he needed something special at the par-four 18th.
Schmid, who was wayward at times, found trouble with both his drive and second shot, but somehow coaxed in a 15-foot par-saving putt that seemed likely to clinch victory.
But Kanaya, the world’s third-ranked amateur, was up to the challenge as he made the putt to force extra holes, punching his fist and screaming ‘come on’ as the ball disappeared.
Schmid’s waywardness on the extra hole, however, was an anti-climactic end to a match otherwise worthy of a final.
Instead it was only the first round of the match play phase for the 64 players who survived 36 holes of stroke play in the world’s most prestigious amateur tournament.
Brandon Wu, the leading qualifier in the 312-man field, found that his two rounds of excellent stroke play counted for nothing as he fell 1-up to the 64th and final qualifier, fellow American Austin Squires.
The second round of stroke play had been delayed by rain and only completed earlier on Wednesday with 27 contenders in a playoff for three spots in the match play phase.
The playoff dragged on for nearly four hours before Squires finally grabbed the last spot.
He made the most of his unlikely advancement by then eliminating Wu, who two months ago tied for 35th at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
“It was stressful,” Squires said. “I was ecstatic to make it out of the playoff. I was one putt away from not being in match play and then I got through and it started from scratch.”
Wu said he had been brought undone by a cold putter.
“I thought I had some good game this week,” he said. “Couldn’t make anything.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both)