The USGA has decided to add some spice to the stroke-play qualifying rounds of next week’s U.S. Amateur at Riviera Country Club and Bel Air Country Club in Los Angeles.
As is the case with many professional events, the national championship will, for the first time, include a set of featured groupings. There will also be a Californian hitting the opening tee ball of the first round on the No. 1 and No. 10 tees on both courses. P.J. Samiere, the California State Amateur champion, will strike the official first shot of the tournament at Riviera.
Here are some of next week’s featured groupings:
Stewart Hagestad – Scottie Scheffler – Alfie Plant
These three were the low amateurs in each of this year’s major championships. Hagestad, the reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur winner, is a virtual certainty to make the U.S. Walker Cup team given his résumé and intimate knowledge of Los Angeles Country Club, where the matches will be played next month. Scheffler had a strong run with the Texas Longhorns before making the U.S. Open cut and hopes to make the team after two narrow misses in 2013 and 2015. Plant, the Open Championship low amateur, will undoubtedly represent Great Britain & Ireland at the Walker Cup next month.
Dylan Meyer – Collin Morikawa – Scott Gregory
Nos. 4, 5 and 6 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking should all have great opportunities for deep runs in the U.S. Amateur. Morikawa’s victory at the Northeast Amateur and near triumph at the Sunnehanna Amateur have likely cemented his place on the U.S. Walker Cup team. Meyer, from the University of Illinois, may need a good week to convince U.S. captain John “Spider” Miller that he should be on the squad. Gregory, the Englishman who won the 2016 Amateur Championship, has continued his solid play this year with wins at the New South Wales Amateur and the Georgia Cup.
Doug Ghim – Cameron Champ – Norman Xiong
After a coming-out party at the U.S. Open, where he made the cut, Champ reached the semifinals appearance at the Western Amateur, adding to his convincing argument that he deserves a spot on the U.S. Walker Cup team. Xiong, the superb youngster out of the University of Oregon who won the Western Amateur, will have a chance to earn his way onto the team with a strong performance. Ghim’s lights-out play in the Palmer Cup and fourth-place finish at the Northeast Amateur put him on the Walker Cup borderline.
Joaquin Niemann – Maverick McNealy – Braden Thornberry
This superstar group features the top three amateurs in the world. Has anyone been more impressive this year than Thornberry? The Ole Miss Rebel won the Jones Cup and the individual NCAA Championship while also finishing fourth in a PGA Tour event. The experienced McNealy disappointed at the NCAA Championship but played well at the Palmer Cup and U.S. Open. He is considered a lock for the Walker Cup. Niemann, now No. 1 in the world, is fully capable of winning the U.S. Amateur at just 18 years old before he goes to the University of South Florida next spring.
Stroke-play qualifying takes place next Monday and Tuesday. For a full list of tee times, click here.