121st U.S. Amateur primer: TV sked, course info, players to watch

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The 121st U.S. Amateur gets underway Monday just outside of Pittsburgh. Here is everything you need to know entering the prestigious national championship:

Format

A field of 312 competitors will be reduced to just 64 after 36 holes of stroke play between two courses. The top 64 move on to match play, which will be contested over five days and culminate with a 36-hole championship match on Sunday.


How to watch

Live coverage begins Wednesday with the Round of 64, which will be broadcast on Peacock from 3-4 p.m. ET and Golf Channel from 4-6 p.m. Thursday’s action will be on Peacock from 11 a.m.-noon and Golf Channel from noon-2 p.m. Friday’s quarterfinals begin on Peacock at 11 a.m. followed by Golf Channel from noon- 2 p.m. Saturday’s semifinals are on Golf Channel from 3-4 p.m. and NBC from 4-6 p.m. Sunday’s final coverage begins at 3 p.m. on Peacock before moving to NBC from 4-6 p.m.


Oakmont

Venues

Historic Oakmont Country Club, a nine-time U.S. Open and 17-time USGA-championship layout, serves as the main host this week, with nearby Longue Vue Club in Verona serving as the co-host for stroke play. While par-70 Longue View, renovated by A.W. Tillinghast in 1935, is listed at 6,647 yards, Henry Fownes-designed Oakmont, also a par 70, will tip out at 7,254 yards. That total yardage includes the 288-yard, par-3 eighth hole. Despite the length, however, firm and fast conditions will likely make Oakmont play much shorter. One competitor said he wouldn’t be surprised to see a long-hitter drive the 482-yard first hole if it’s played slightly up during the championship. Also, after 6-inch rough in spots during the 2003 U.S. Amateur, Oakmont’s rough is noticeably shorter, though that doesn’t necessarily mean easier; shorter rough increases the unpredictability factor, whether it’s with the lie or how the ball reacts off the club face.


Flanagan

History lesson

Oakmont has hosted five previous U.S. Amateurs, the first coming in 1919, when a local twenty-something named Samuel Davidson Herron, who had been working at a steel mill before heading off to Princeton, beat Bobby Jones in the 36-hole final, 5 and 4. Davidson grew up across the street from Oakmont and, as legend goes, used to sell lemonade to golfers as a kid. He broke a club in a bunker midway through the first 18 holes but survived to defeat Jones, who went on to win the next U.S. Amateur at Oakmont, in 1925. … Willie Turnesa was the third U.S. Amateur winner at the club, beating B. Patrick Abbott, 8 and 7. Not only did he have 15 one-putts, but he also got up and down from 13 greenside bunkers in the final match, thus earning the moniker, “Willie the Wedge.” … Steve Melnyk took the 1969 title at Oakmont, shooting 2 over to win by five shots (the championship was contested over 72 holes of stroke play from 1965 to 1972). … The most recent player to lift the Havemeyer Trophy at Oakmont was Australian Nick Flanagan, who took down Casey Wittenberg in extra holes in 2003.


Cole Hammer

Field, by the numbers

A year after the COVID-19 pandemic kept many of the top international players from making the trip to Bandon Dunes, most of the world’s best are at Oakmont this week. World No. 1 Keita Nakajima headlines the field and is joined by the other nine top-10 amateurs in the world, including Texas teammates Pierceson Coody and Cole Hammer. … Just three of the top 25 in WAGR are not teeing it up, including No. 13 Eugenio Chacarra, who was forced to withdraw because of mononucleosis. … While defending champion Tyler Strafaci is now professional, reigning runner-up Ollie Osborne of SMU will play. Thirteen past USGA champions are also in the field, including Stewart Hagestad, who lost to Strafaci in last year’s quarterfinals and will play in his 12th U.S. Amateur this week, the second-best mark behind Sean Knapp (17). … Knapp, 59, is the second-oldest player in the field, just behind fellow 59-year-old Bob Royak. Reed Greyserman is the youngest at 16 years old. … In total, 57 players are exempt while the rest are qualifiers.


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Favorites

There’s no question that the hottest player entering this week is Stanford sophomore Michael Thorbjornsen. The 2018 U.S. Junior champion followed a record-breaking victory at the Massachusetts State Amateur with another statement win at last weekend’s Western Amateur, where he beat red-hot Gordon Sargent in the final. Sargent is one to watch, too, as he also reached the quarters of the U.S. Junior and won the Alabama State Amateur this summer. … The Pepperdine trio of Dylan Menante, Joe Highsmith and Derek Hitchner have continued to build momentum after the Waves won the NCAA title in early June. Menante won the Northeast and finished runner-up at the Pac Coast Amateur, Highsmith posted top-10s at the Western, Pac Coast and North and South amateurs, and Hitchner won the Tran-Miss Amateur and Minnesota Amateur while taking second at the Minnesota Open. … Texas Tech’s Ludvig Aberg and Arizona State’s David Puig finished second and third, respectively, at the European Amateur this summer. … Louis Dobbelaar didn’t have his best stuff at the Western, but he did win the North and South and Dogwood amateurs earlier in the summer.


Notable groupings

Here are 10 of the top stroke-play groupings:

  • Alex Fitzpatrick, Ricky Castillo, Cole Hammer
  • Ollie Osborne, Joe Highsmith, Andrew Kozan
  • Ryggs Johnston, Bo Jin, Jacob Bridgeman
  • Maxwell Moldovan, Derek Hitchner, Michael Thorbjornsen
  • Preston Summerhays, William Mouw, Garrett Rank
  • Aman Gupta Matthew Sharpstene, Stewart Hagestad
  • Luke Potter, Kelly Chinn, Julian Perico
  • Sam Bennett, David Puig, Ren Yonezawa
  • Keita Nakajima, Pierceson Coody, Ludvig Aberg
  • Noah Goodwin, Kiko Francisco Coelho, Peter Fountain

Click here for complete tee times, groupings