Scheffler defeats Riley to win U.S. Junior Amateur Championship
Special to the Sun
TRUCKEE, Calif. – Scottie Scheffler, 17, won the last four holes of the 36-hole final match to defeat 16-year-old Davis Riley, 3 and 2, on Saturday and win the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at the 7,740-yard, par-72 Martis Camp Club.
Scheffler, who captured the championship in his fourth and final appearance as an eligible junior competitor, became the sixth native Texan to claim the U.S. Junior Amateur since 1999. The Dallas resident joins the likes of fellow Lone Star State standouts Hunter Mahan and Jordan Spieth.
“I played pretty well down the stretch, said Scheffler, who emerged as the No. 3 seed after 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying and then defeated six opponents in match play, including the scheduled 36-hole final, to be crowned as champion.
“In the morning round, I gave away a lot of shots and I struggled with the putting a little bit early, then I started to figure it out.”
Scheffler, who lost in the Round of 32 at last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur, was 2-down through 27 holes in the final, but started his rally with a conceded 4 ½-foot birdie on the 647-yard, par-5 10th (28th hole of the match). Three holes later, Riley lipped out a short par putt and the match was all square with five holes left.
“Yeah it was [a momentum swing],” said Riley about his missed par putt on the 13th hole. “I felt like I still could have won [the match]. I was playing really well, my ball-striking was really good.”
On the par-3 14th, Scheffler hit a wedge from 159 yards and the ball came to rest on the right fringe and up against the collar. The eventual champion made the 8-foot birdie putt to take his first lead of the match.
“That hole has been pretty good to me,” said Scheffler, who also birdied the 14th in the morning. “I don’t know how it flew that far, and I don’t know how it stopped.”
Scheffler set up his third birdie on the inward nine by hitting a 250-yard hybrid to 5 feet on the par-5 15th. He won the following hole, the par-4 16th, and the match when Riley, of Hattiesburg, Miss., called a rules infraction on himself as he prepared for a 28-foot birdie putt from just off the green. Riley said the ball moved at address, leading to a one-stroke penalty and a bogey.
“I addressed it and it just rolled a little bit,” said Riley, who conferred with United States Golf Association referee Skip Gist. “So I got a one-stroke penalty. It is what it is.”
It was a turn of events in a match where Riley, the fifth seed, took advantage of his opponent’s mistakes to build a 3-hole lead on the outward nine during the morning 18 holes. Scheffler hit his approach shot to the left of the first hole, leading to a double bogey. Riley made pars at holes 5 and 6, while Scheffler found trouble. The two-time Texas state high school champion missed a 7-foot par putt at the par-4 6th.
Scheffler, who is currently No. 34 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, captured the next two holes. His third shot on the par-5 seventh settled within tap-in range for a birdie. Riley was short of the green on the par-3 eighth, which led to a bogey.
Riley won No. 11 with a par to grab a 2-up lead, but was short of the green on the par-4 12th and eventually conceded a 9-foot birdie putt to his opponent. The players traded birdies on Nos. 13 and 14. Riley sank a 5 ½-foot putt from below the hole, before Scheffler drilled an uphill 24-footer at the par-3 14th. The finalists halved the next four holes, including two birdies on No. 18, and Riley held a 1-up lead at the break.
In the afternoon, Scheffler squared the match at No. 5 when he chipped in from 45 feet for birdie with a 54-degree wedge. Riley, who is No. 494 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and a three-time Mississippi state high school medalist, won the following hole with a 5-foot par and increased his lead to 2-up at the turn with a two-putt par at No. 9.
In the end, Scheffler’s late rally was part of both overcoming deficits and a quality field throughout the week. He won a suspended match on Friday in 19 holes with a bogey, before claiming victory in both his quarterfinal and semifinal matches.
“You have to be mentally tough,” said Scheffler, who also won a 1-up third-round match against Maverick McNealy, a 2012 Junior Amateur quarterfinalist. “I mean, you have to make putts. You need to perform.”
The U.S. Junior Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.