On the 29th August 2016 Scotland’s Ewen FERGUSON formally announced he was turning pro and that he would be making his debut at the Cordon Golf Open in France on the European Challenge Tour.
Ewen, who turned 20 in July, is a former British Boys Amateur champion and was a member of the 2015 Walker Cup team that defeated USA at Royal Lytham.
Whilst his pedigree is undoubted 2016 has not really provided him with the platform he will have hoped for. He has delivered few notable amateur performances and has been hampered by a troubling wrist injury.
Despite this he has appeared committed to this course of action for some time and his announcement has come as no surprise to anyone. Having already played in the Walker Cup and achieved more than most in the amateur game who can blame him. He may now have to endure a few more quiet seasons but hopefully he will gain experience of the pro game and keep moving forward.
Ferguson’s decision leaves just Grant FORREST and Jack HUME as the remaining amateur players from the last GB&I Walker Cup team.
Back in May 2016 I reported on changes that the European Tour had made to amateur playing rights on their feeder tour – ‘Amateurs and the European Challenge Tour‘ – whereby amateurs could now earn points in the Road to Oman competition.
Ferguson and compatriot Grant Forrest (23), who also played in the last Walker Cup match, have grasped this opportunity benefiting from a new partnership between Scottish Golf and management company, Bounce Golf.
Earlier this year Ferguson played in both the Turkish Airlines Challenge and then the Montecchia Open by Lyoness, to his credit making the cut in both events. Unfortunately in France this week his two 75’s for a +10 total left him languishing in tied 137th spot 9 shots adrift of the +1 cut mark. Here’s a link to the Cordon Open Golf scores.
Forrest, who also missed the cut in these two early season Challenge tour events, again found the going surprisingly tough in France. Rounds of 74 and 79 and a +13 total saw him finish in tied 146th place, a long way off the pace.
Grant Forrest, unlike Ferguson, also competed for GB&I in the St. Andrews Trophy in July 2016 at Prince’s Golf Club. In his playing defence he has enjoyed a good amateur season with high finishes in the Lytham Trophy, Scottish Open Amateur, St Andrews Links Trophy, The Amateur and the European Amateur.
It is obviously too early to assess the success of the Scottish Golf / Bounce Golf alliance. The acid test for this will of course be whether the likes of Ferguson and his successors can make it onto and stay on the main European Tour in the years to come.
With Robert MACINTYRE and Connor SYME having both delivered better amateur seasons than Messrs. Ferguson and Forrest I expect they will be invited to experience the ‘bright lights’ of professional golf next year with Bounce Golf. Indeed I see both are teeing it up at next week’s Volopa Irish Challenge event at Mount Wolseley, presumably on the back of Scottish Golf invites. With both currently probables for the 2017 Walker Cup team I hope they don’t have their heads turned too soon. I think we may need both of them in Los Angeles if they maintain their form next year.
Curtis LUCK (AUS) won the 2016 U.S. Amateur champion, beating Brad DALKE (USA) 6&4 in today’s 36-hole Championship match at Oakland Hills CC, in Detroit.
Whilst Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) are not celebrating a U.S. Amateur win this year the 2016 Championship proved to be a reasonably successful one for us.
I certainly can’t recall six of our players making the Top 64 cut in the stroke play qualifying before and therefore progressing to the match play stage. It was also good to see at least one of the six coming from each of the four home nations.
In exactly 12 month’s time the R&A will announce their 2017 Walker Cup team. So lets look at who put an early marker down at this year’s U.S. Amateur Championship and showed they have the ability to compete at the highest level.
11 GB&I players qualified for the 116th U.S. Amateur Championship: –
David BOOTE 22 (WAL) – Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16 Jamie BOWER 23 (ENG) – Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16 Ewen FERGUSON 20 (SCO) – 2015 Walker Cup, Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16 Grant FORREST 23 (SCO) – 2015 Walker Cup, Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16 Scott GREGORY 21 (ENG) – 2016 Amateur Champion Sam HORSFIELD 19 (ENG) – 2016 US Open, Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16 Jack HUME 22 (IRE) – 2015 Walker Cup, Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16 Robert MACINTYRE 20 (SCO) – Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16 Bradley MOORE 18 (ENG) – Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16 Jack SINGH BRAR 19 (ENG) – Qualifier at Ada, Michigan (05/07/16) Connor SYME 21 (SCO) – Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16
Stroke Play Qualifying Stage – 15th-16th August
The U.S. Amateur starts with a 36-hole stroke play qualifying event to identify the 64 players who will contest the match play stage that will ultimately determine the champion.
Alex SMALLEY (USA) earned medalist honours with a 133 (-7) total after two impressive rounds at Oakland Hills; a 65 on the North Course, followed on Day 2 by a 68 on the tougher South Course.
56 players automatically qualified on +1 with 23 others on +2 having to endure a sudden death play-off for the remaining 8 spots.
18th hole, South Course, Oakland Hills CC (Photo: Oakland Hills CC)
Here are the GB&I stroke play qualifying scores: –
T6 Scott GREGORY 21 (ENG) -3 69 NC, 68 SC
T11 Sam HORSFIELD 19 (ENG) -2 66 NC, 72 SC
T30 Connor SYME 21 (SCO) Ev 70 SC, 70 NC
T41 Jack HUME 22 (IRE) +1 72 SC, 69 NC
T57 David BOOTE 22 (WAL) +2 70 SC, 72 NC
T57 Bradley MOORE 18 (ENG) +2 71 NC, 71 SC
Scott GREGORY was our leading stroke play qualifier finishing a very creditable tied 6th. He recorded just three bogeys over his 36 holes which must have been amongst the lowest in the whole field.
Sam HORSFIELD set himself up for qualification with a five birdie 66 (-4) on the North Course. A satisfactory 72 (+2) on the South on Day 2 saw him qualify as the 17th seed.
Connor SYME qualified with two symmetrical par rounds. On Day 1 he had one birdie and one bogey on each side of the South and on Day 2 he had three bogies on the front nine before recovering his qualification with three birdies on the back.
Jack HUME left himself some work to do on Day 2 after a 72 over the South on Day 1. The fact he was able to shoot a 69 on the North when he needed it bode well for his chances later in the week.
David BOOTE and Bradley MOORE both showed strong resolve to battle their way to +2 and a shot at the 23-into-8 match play play-off. Within a few minutes of each other on the morning of Day 3 they both holed long birdie putts on the second play-off hole (11th on the North Course) to progress.
So in summary Sam HORSFIELD, Scott GREGORY, Connor SYME, Bradley MOORE and Jack HUME all qualified for the match play stage and therefore in my view could all leave Oakland Hills with their heads held high. When one considers the quality of the field at the U.S. Amateur and looks at our historic record in achieving this feat you have to say this is the right hurdle for defining a good GB&I Championship performance.
By the same definition those GB&I players who missed the match play cut have to accept that they fell short: –
Jack SINGH BRAR looked nicely on track when he posted a 71 (+1) on the South Course and followed it with a 34 (-1) over his first nine holes on the North on Day 2. Unfortunately three bogeys over his last 5 holes saw him drift from comfortable qualification (+1) to a missed cut position (+3).
Ewen FERGUSON started nervously bogeying and double bogeying his first two holes on the North Course. Three late birdies on Day 1 helped him recover to a 72 (+2) but with the South to come the odds were always going to be stacked against him. He managed a 71 on Day 2 to his credit but it in reality it was too little too late for the Scotsman. Not helped by injuries this is proving to be a season to forget for the 2015 Walker cup man.
I had high hopes for Robert MACINTYRE heading into the week. He backed them up for me with a 68 (-2) on the North Course to start the week off. Unfortunately five bogeys and two double bogeys on his way to a 76 (+6) on the South saw him tumble down the leaderboard.
Grant FORREST and Jamie BOWER, who were both a long way off the pace, will both be disappointed with their performances this week.
Match Play Stage – 17th-21st August
Here’s is a summary of all of the GB&I match play results: –
Quarter Finals – Friday 19th August 2016 David Boote 62 (WAL) LOST 3&2 v. Brad Dalke 38 (USA)
Round of 16 – Thursday 18th August 2016 Dylan Meyer 33 (USA) WON 19th hole v. Sam Horsfield 17 (ENG) David Boote 62 (WAL) WON 2&1 v. Collin Morikawa 14 (USA)
Round of 32 – Thursday 18th August 2016 Doc Redman 49 (USA) LOST 5&4 v. Sam Horsfield 17 (ENG) Scott Gregory 9 (ENG) LOST 19th Hole v. Nick Carlson 41 (USA) David Boote 62 (WAL) WON 3&1 v. Ben Schlottman 35 (USA)
Round of 64 – Wednesday 17th August 2016 Connor Syme 32 (SCO) LOST 2 Up v. Dylan Meyer 33 (USA) Sam Horsfield 17 (ENG) WON 3&1 v. Hugo Bernard 48 (CAN) Scott Gregory 9 (ENG) WON 7&5 v. Raymond Knoll 56 (USA) Dawson Armstrong 2 (USA) WON 1 Up v. Bradley Moore 63 (ENG) Bryson Nimmer 23 (U SA) WON 1 Up v. Jack Hume 42 (IRE) Gavin Hall 3 (USA) LOST 3&2 v. David Boote 62 (WAL)
David BOOTE (WAL) was the most successful GB&I player at the 2016 U.S. Amateur Championship reaching the quarter-finals of the match play stage.
David Boote made few mistakes in the match play stage and his consistent play enabled him to see off Gavin Hall, Ben Schlottman and most impressively Collin Morikawa. He saved his best till last too, playing very well against Brad Dalke, where despite giving nothing away he ended up losing his quarter final match to an inspired opponent on the day. Boote has been playing consistently to a high level this summer and is now right at the top of the GB&I amateur game. If he chooses to remain amateur and can maintain this form he will surely secure a place in next year’s Walker Cup team.
Sam HORSFIELD beat Hugo Bernard, winner of the Canadian Amateur title last weekend, 3&1 in the Round of 64. He then played his very best golf to beat Doc Redman, shooting 29 on the front nine before finishing the match 7-under par on the 14th. Dylan Meyer, who just a few week’s ago beat Sam in the final of the Western Amateur, was next up. In a tight match Horsfield missed a short 3 footer for par on their 19th hole to allow Meyer to get the better of him again. It says everything about Horsfield, who this week moved to No. 1 in the SPWAR rankings, that the fact he didn’t reach at least the semi-finals this week has to be viewed as both a disappointment and a surprise.
Scott GREGORY had an easy first match with Raymond Knoll bogeying 7 of the 13 holes they completed. Scott played well in his final match – he was 3-under for the 19 holes contested, with just one bogey – but simply came up against an in form Nick Carlson; the local Michigan man playing well above himself all week. Carlson of course went on to reach the semi-finals before losing to Australian Curtis Luck yesterday.
Connor SYME lost to Dylan Meyer, the recent Western Amateur champion and nemesis of Sam Horsfield in Round 1. Syme gave the in form American a good game and will have been disappointed to lose 2 Up, particularly as he lost the last two holes to par.
The tough finish on Oakland Hills South Course proved too much for both Bradley MOORE and Jack HUME in their Round of 64 matches. Moore did well to fight back to All Square against the No. 2 qualifier Dawson Armstrong having been 2 Down with 6 holes to play. However, having birdied the 13th and 16th, he bogied the last two holes to let Armstrong progress. Hume was 1 Up with 3 to play before he bogeyed 16 and 17 to give his opponent, Bryson Nimmer a 1 Up lead which he saw out on the final hole.
You don’t get anywhere near the first tee of the U.S. Amateur without being a very accomplished golfer. So in terms of a stepping stone to 2017 Walker Cup selection it is often a case of looking at who did not perform and understanding why rather than those that did. The six players who made it to the match play stage clearly did very well and confirmed their standing as 2017 Walker Cup ‘probables’. Those that did not will know they need to learn from the experience and work on both their games and consistency to demonstrate they are more than ‘possibles’.
Great Britain & Ireland retained the 2016 St. Andrews Trophy earlier this week in an exciting match against the Continent of Europe.
The 31st contest in the series was halved 12.5-12.5 at Prince’s Golf Club in Kent but as the holders GB&I were able to keep the Trophy on home soil. It was the first time the match had been halved, GB&I winning 25 times and Europe just five times previously.
Great Britain & Ireland (Photo: Darren Plant)
David BOOTE (WAL) proved to be the hero of the day bravely parring the 18th hole to secure a 1Up win in the final singles game of Day 2 against Spain’s Ivan CANTERO GUTIERREZ (ESP).
GB&I had got off to the worse possible start losing the Day 1 foursomes 0-4. A recovery of sorts looked possible for the home team in the afternoon singles but some late reverses saw Europe rescue a 4-4 series result.
Going into Day 2 behind 4-8 few predicted GB&I could recover the situation. However, a 3.5-1.5 result in the Day 2 foursomes gave the team every reason to believe prior to the 9 singles commencing. The singles were again a rollercoaster affair but GB&I managed to sneak them 5-4 to secure a dramatic half.
Whilst it does not take into account the quality of each player’s opposition it is still interesting to review the high level individual player contributions: –
From a GB&I perspective Scott GREGORY (ENG) and Stuart GREHAN (IRE) were our star men this week securing two singles wins and one foursome success.
Connor SYME (SCO), Jack HUME (IRE), David BOOTE (WAL) and Alfie PLANT (ENG) also played important point scoring roles during the competition.
Jamie BOWER (ENG), Grant FORREST (SCO) and Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) will be disappointed with their contributions.
GB&I and new captain Craig WATSON will no doubt be delighted to retain the St. Andrews Trophy. The Team showed real determination and fight to turn around a horrific start.
However, the reality is this was a disappointing performance and result.
Save for the inclusion of Sam HORSFIELD (ENG) and possibly Ewen FERGUSON (SCO) GB&I were able to put out their strongest team. Europe were sadly not in the same position. Adrian MERONK (POL) and Antoine ROZNER (FRA) would certainly have been included if not for the fixture clash with the European Challenge Tour event in France. Ugo COUSSAUD (FRA) and Gregoire SCHOEB (FRA), also playing in France, would probably have been considered too.
Europe have only won five St. Andrews Trophy matches out of 30, with just one of these victories coming away from the Continent. GB&I clearly have an advantage when playing such matches on links courses which they have far more experience of.
So, harsh as it may seem, I for one am not going to get too excited about a halved home match against a weakened Continent of Europe team. Much improvement will be needed if GB&I are going to give a hurt USA team a match on a parkland course in sunny Los Angeles at the 2017 Walker Cup.
The European Men’s Amateur Team Championships finished today in France (Division 1) and Luxembourg (Division 2).
These are the events that highlight a player’s ability to compete at the highest level and help firm up foursome pairings for selectors down the line.
Scotland retained their European Team title and in particular Connor SYME, Craig HOWIE, Robert MACINTYRE and Grant FORREST have enhanced their already strong reputations further.
Ireland‘s Stuart GREHAN and Jack HUME qualified stronglyand performed well in the match play stage as the their team finished a creditable 6th.
There was little to cheer for England who finished a disappointing 13th. Alfie PLANT did however perform well himself.
Wales finished 2nd in Division 2 but David BOOTE won the stroke play qualifier and all four of his match play games.
All in all, save for Craig HOWIE,who is really applying pressure on the R&A selectors (and me), I haven’t seen anything to suggest I need to alter my St. Andrews Trophy team selection which I published here a few days ago.
Here is my GB&I Player Performance Analysis covering these two events.
Here’s my stab at the 2016 Great Britain & Ireland St. Andrews Trophy Team.
The St. Andrews Trophy has been played biennially between GB&I and Europe since 1956.
GB&I have won 25 times with Europe having just five wins to their name, albeit two of them came recently in 2010 and 2012. GB&I won the 2014 match, played in Barsebäck, Sweden, 14-10.
I anticipate this year’s match being a very close encounter.
With the European Men’s Amateur Team Championship coming to a conclusion at Golf de Chantilly in France on Saturday I expect the GB&I Team to be named by The R&A and Captain Craig Watson early next week.
These are the questions I’ve asked myself before selecting my Team: –
How many players do I need, where are we playing and what’s the format ?
The match is to be contested by a team of 9 GB&I players.
It is to be played on the links of Prince’s Golf Club in Kent, England on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st July.
On Day 1 4 foursomes and 8 singles will be played. On Day 2 there are again 4 foursomes but in a change to the recent format all 9 players will then compete in singles this year. I know from past experience that there is always a tendency to prefer pairs from the same country so need to consider that.
Who’s in the frame ?
An 18-man St. Andrews Trophy Squad was announced on 24th March 2016.
This included David BOOTE (WAL), Jamie BOWER (ENG), Owen EDWARDS (WAL), Ewen FERGUSON (SCO), Grant FORREST (SCO), John Ross GALBRAITH (IRE), Alex GLEESON (IRE), Stuart GREHAN (IRE), Scott GREGORY (ENG), Jack HUME (IRE), Jack MCDONALD (SCO), Robert MACINTYRE (SCO), Greg MARCHBANK (SCO), Bradley MOORE (ENG), Marco PENGE (ENG), Craig ROSS (SCO), Connor SYME (SCO) and Ashton TURNER (ENG).
There were 7 players from Scotland, 5 from England, 4 from Ireland and 2 from Wales in the initial squad.
We can of course remove Jack McDonald from the above group as he turned pro on 31st March.
Who has performed well this year ?
Here is my 29th June 2016 Rankings Assessment which clearly shows who our leading players have been in the year to date, at least according to the two main Amateur Rankings.
It seems unlikely to me that anyone outside my Combined Top 20 listed above will be selected. Unless of course The R&A go for a completely Scottish team – which given current form is not as outlandish a statement as it may at first seem.
Who’s showing form at this week’s European Men’s Amateur Championship ?
EMATC GB&I Stroke Play Scores
The above table clearly shows who performed well in the stroke play qualifying and how today’s first round match play has gone for our leading players.
In Division 2 David BOOTE was the medalist in the stroke play qualifying with a -9 36-hole total in Luxembourg.
Notable Omissions ?
At the end of June our highest ranked player was Sam HORSFIELD (ENG). I understand that Craig Watson watched and met with him at the Arnold Palmer Cup a few weeks ago at Formby but I don’t envisage him being considered or dare I say making himself available for this event. I am sure Sam will be committed to the series of major amateur events that are played in the United States during July and August.
Ewen FERGUSON (SCO) has been struggling with a wrist injury in recent weeks, withdrawing from three events in succession. I have therefore chosen to exclude him from my thoughts on fitness grounds. This is a shame for Ewen as he has started to show some good form lately with a 3rd place in the St Andrews Links Trophy and a good run at The Amateur.
So excluding Sam and Ewen here’s my team of 9, in order of selection: –
1. Grant FORREST (SCO) – since winning the Battle Trophy in Scotland he has strung to together a series of top quality results. Playing well in France and now back to his very best.
2. Jack HUME (IRE) – the South African SP and European Nations Individual 2016 champion was solid in the 2015 Walker Cup and outstanding in the Bonallack Trophy earlier this year.
3. Connor SYME (SCO) – the 2016 Australian Amateur champion has enjoyed an excellent season and is now undoubtedly one of GB&I’s top amateur players.
4. Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) – has peaked perfectly for this selection. Finalist in The Amateur and has taken that form into his last two events on the Challenge Tour and this week in France.
5. Scott GREGORY (ENG) – having just won The Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl he obviously must play. He’s delivered winning results for England in two international matches this year also.
6. Alfie PLANT (ENG) – a fantastic winner of the Lytham Trophy who has enjoyed good finishes at the French International Amateur (T11) and Brabazon Trophy (T7) since. A Kent-lad too which should help with local support.
7. Jamie BOWER (ENG) – he’s won three events this year including the prestigious Brabazon Trophy in Kent, albeit on an inland course. Jamie also got to the last 16 of the Amateur so has certainly backed up his early season wins in South Africa.
It starts to get a bit trickier from here on in, particularly around foursomes pairings, but I’ve given the benefit of the doubt to: –
8. Stuart GREHAN (IRE) – a strong performance this week for Ireland on the back of a positive contribution at the Arnold Palmer Cup. Stuart seems to be on an upward curve to me.
9. David BOOTE (WAL) – David has enjoyed a good season for Stanford in the US and delivered winning results at the Bonallack Trophy (where he played with Jack Hume) and Arnold Palmer Cup this year. He has also made a good start in Luxembourg this week for Wales at the Division 2 European Men’s Team Championship.
Having put my head above the parapet I have to say it would be hard for me to argue if any of Craig HOWIE (SCO – partnering Connor Syme at the Euros this week), Conor O’ROURKE (Naas GC, IRE – as is Jack Hume), Sandy SCOTT (SCO), Craig ROSS (SCO) or Bradley MOORE (ENG – a possible partner for Alfie Plant) were selected by The R&A based on 2016 performances and potential foursome pairings.
Let me know what you think by commenting below or on Twitter ?
The R&A and new captain Craig Watson (SCO) yesterday announced an 18-man GB&I Squad for the 2016 St. Andrews Trophy match against the Continent of Europe.
7 players from Scotland, 5 from England, 4 from Ireland and 2 from Wales have been selected. They are listed below in alphabetical order: –
David BOOTE (WAL) Jamie BOWER (ENG) Owen EDWARDS (WAL) Ewen FERGUSON (SCO) Grant FORREST (SCO) John Ross GALBRAITH (IRE) Alex GLEESON (IRE) Stuart GREHAN (IRE) Scott GREGORY (ENG) Jack HUME (IRE) Jack MCDONALD (SCO) Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) Greg MARCHBANK (SCO) Bradley MOORE (ENG) Marco PENGE (ENG) Craig ROSS (SCO) Connor SYME (SCO) Ashton TURNER (ENG)
The current GB&I Scratch Players World Amateur Golf Ranking is shown below: –
The current GB&I World Amateur Golf Ranking is also shown below: –
As one would expect the Squad largely reflects the current rankings.
The obvious omission is Sam HORSFIELD (ENG) who has made a strong start to his freshman year at Florida on the US College circuit and sits near the top of both rankings. It is unclear at the moment whether the R&A have ignored him after his late Walker Cup withdrawal last summer or Sam has simply made himself unavailable. It is interesting to note that he has made himself available for Europe’s Palmer Cup Team and the match taking place against the United States at Formby GC in June.
Jimmy ALLEN (ENG) who was well placed in the rankings turned pro ahead of the MENA Tour opener in Morocco this week and was therefore not considered.
From an analysis of the two rankings – and in particular looking at those players that either sit in the Top 18 or above others that have been selected – the following players may consider themselves unlucky (or additionally motivated for the next few months): Paul KINNEAR (ENG), Jamie SAVAGE (SCO), Paul MCBRIDE (IRE), Robin DAWSON (IRE), Craig HOWIE (SCO) and James WALKER (ENG).
A speedy recovery is hoped for both Jonathan THOMSON (ENG) and Sean TOWNDROW (ENG) who have both been battling injury and health issues in recent months and whose exclusions are understandable.
The match, which will be contested by a team of 9, is to be played at Prince’s Golf Club in Kent, England on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st July 2016. The St. Andrews Trophy has been played for since 1956. GB&I have won 25 times with Europe having just five wins to their name, albeit two of them came in 2010 and 2012.
Looking ahead to July’s match Craig Watson said: “We have a strong group of players to call upon again this year and there is a good mixture of experience and youth in the squad. We know we will be in for a tough match at Prince’s so we have to pick the best team we can and the players will be working hard throughout this season to impress the selectors”.
GB&I won the 2014 match at Barsebäck, Sweden by a 14 – 10 scoreline. Grant Forrest is the only member of that winning team to be included in the 2016 Squad. His fellow Scottish Internationals Jamie Savage and Graeme Robertson are the only other members of the 2014 Team to remain amateur.
A long way to go until the 2017 Walker Cup but nevertheless it is worth recording the players that the R&A currently view as their strongest.