Cantlay defeats Uihlein in playoff

Patrick Cantlay, the world’s top-ranked amateur, defeated No. 2 Peter Uihlein with a par on the first hole of a sudden death playoff to advance to the final four of the 109th Western Amateur at North Shore Country Club.

Cantlay will play fellow Southern Californian Jeffrey Kang at 8 a.m. Saturday, while Taiwan’s Cheng-Tsung Pan and Ethan Tracy of the Columbus, Ohio, area face off in the other semifinal match. The winners of those two matches will meet in the finals at approximately 12:30 p.m.

On their first playoff hole, Cantlay hit the No. 1 green with his second shot while Uihlein airmailed it by a few feet, his ball coming to rest amid 6-inch-high rough. Uihlein’s pitch rolled some 25 feet past the hole and he missed the putt coming back, resulting in a bogey. Cantlay won the match with a two-putt par from 15 feet.

“That was the closest, most back-and-forth match I’ve ever played,” said Cantlay, a 19-year-old UCLA sophomore and the reigning college player of the year.

One hole earlier, Uihlein, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion and a senior at Oklahoma State, had conceded a 3-to-4-foot par putt to Cantlay in a gesture many of the hundreds of spectators admired for its good sportsmanship.

“I was very surprised he gave me that putt,” Cantlay said of his future Walker Cup teammate. “I’ve never given a putt of that length.”

Uihlein, of Orlando, said afterwards that he didn’t want the match to end on a possible three-putt.

“You don’t want to see a match end on a missed 3-footer,” Uihlein said. “I wanted to see a match between us end with a birdie or a good shot.”

Uihlein held a 2-up lead going into the par 5 12th hole, which he parred. But Cantlay birdied after narrowly missing a 15-foot eagle putt.

With the deficit reduced to one, Cantlay then squared the match with a near hole-in-one at the 169-yard par 3 16th. The two players exchanged birdies on the next two holes, and the match remained tied through the playoff.

“I’m looking forward to playing with him on the Walker Cup team,” Cantlay said of his 21-year-old counterpart. “We’re friends. We just had a very good match out there. It will be better to have him on my team than to have to play against him.”

In the other afternoon quarterfinal matches, Kang, a USC sophomore, defeated 22-year old Andrew Putnam 1-up in 18 holes.

“This tournament is known for being one of the toughest, most grueling tournaments,” Kang said. “I’m learning to grind it out.”

Pan, now a sophomore at Washington, said he was pleased to have won his first two matches. As Western Amateur medalist in 2009 and 2010, he lost in his first matches and lost again last summer his first match at the U.S. Amateur.

“The victory in the first match was really important to me,” Pan said. “That gave me a lot of confidence. It proved to me I can win in match play.”

Tracy defeated Jordan Spieth, 18, of Dallas 2-and-1 after being up three holes most of the afternoon.

“I came into the tournament with no expectations,” said Tracy, 21, of Hilliard, Ohio. “I haven’t been playing that well all summer. But I’m playing great this week. I’m just going to take it one match at a time, one hole at a time.”

 

-Barry Cronin