Notebook: Campbell Finishes as Low Amateur

Brian Campbell shot 68 on Sunday to finish the 2015 U.S. Open at 5-over par and earn low amateur honors. (USGA/Darren Carroll)
Brian Campbell shot 68 on Sunday to finish the 2015 U.S. Open at 5-over par and earn low amateur honors. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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All Access: Brian Campbell, 2015 U.S. Open Low Amateur

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Brian Campbell made a splash in his second U.S. Open by getting his name atop the leader board early in Round 2. He ended it in first place, too, at least among amateurs in the field at Chambers Bay.

With a closing 2-under-par 68 on Sunday, Campbell crossed the finish line in 5-over 285 to earn low-amateur honors. One of six amateurs to make the cut – the most since 1966 – Campbell, 22, of Irvine, Calif., finished two strokes ahead of Ollie Schneiderjans, 22, of Powder Springs, Ga., and Denny McCarthy, 22, of Rockville, Md.

An All-America selection at Georgia Tech, Schneiderjans, had a chance to tie Campbell on the final hole but carded a bogey for 73-287. McCarthy shot 72.

Campbell got as low as 5 under in the second round and was tied for the lead with Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson before falling back with a 72. His closing 68 came on the heels of a disheartening 78 in Saturday’s third round.

“I was definitely a little disappointed with my round yesterday, because I was in a good position. But that was done with and I knew today was a new day, and I was going to go shoot my best score and then see where it takes me,” said Campbell, the Big Ten Player of the Year for the University of Illinois.

His bounceback Sunday and the honor of being the low amateur in the U.S. Open made up for Saturday’s tough day. In his six career U.S. Open rounds, which includes two rounds last year at Pinehurst No. 2, Campbell carded three scores of par or better.

“Definitely, I'm ecstatic. It's been a great week,” said Campbell, who has yet to decide if he is going to remain an amateur and seek a berth on the USA Walker Cup Team at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England this fall. “It’s really fun to be playing well and have everyone chanting your name. I came into the week not really expecting too much. On a course like this, I felt like it could have gone either way. So to come out and shoot some good scores and get some good confidence going was nice.”

No Quit in Martin

Ben Martin said he never stops competing, no matter his standing in a tournament. That’s how he managed to improve 16 strokes from Saturday to Sunday in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.

Martin, the runner-up in the 2009 U.S. Amateur at Southern Hills, began Saturday’s third round just two strokes off the 36-hole lead. He finished it near the bottom of the field after carding a 16-over-par 86.

“Honestly, I didn’t play that badly. I think I hit 12 greens in regulation [actually 10]. If I do that in a normal Tour week, I could shoot under par most of the time,” said Martin, 27, of Kiawah Island, S.C., who made his first cut in three U.S. Open starts. “This course is very tough. I was probably a couple of swings away from shooting 73-74, which would have been respectable.

“I made some unforced errors and they were compounded by some really bad breaks. I tried to go out with the same mindset I had the first three rounds and play the best final round that I could. I’m still trying to compete. I’m still trying to do the best that I can.”

Martin hit only one more green in regulation (11) on Sunday than he had the day prior, but he managed to avoid the troubling areas that led to three double bogeys, a triple and a quadruple bogey. On Sunday, he balanced three birdies and three bogeys, a steady day.

“I’ve been playing well the last couple of months, and it was nice to get out there and make a few putts,” Martin said. “Overall, I felt like I did OK on a really hard course.”

Saunders Finds Putting Stroke in Final Round

If Sam Saunders had putted as well as he struck the ball during the 115th U.S. Open, he would have still been waiting to tee off early Sunday afternoon instead of finishing his final round.

Still, the 27-year-old grandson of 1960 U.S. Open champion Arnold Palmer left Chambers Bay encouraged.

“Today is the best I’ve ever struck the ball in any tournament,” Saunders said after shooting 69 for a 72-hole total of 9-over 289. “The way I drove the ball, iron shots, everything was completely under control. I putted a lot better today, too.”

Saunders’ 32 putts were fewer than he had in any of the previous rounds, which included 37 on Saturday. “If I had putted as well all week as I did today, I think I would be contending,” Saunders said. “Unfortunately, the first three days, my putting was atrocious.”

Saunders has struggled as a PGA Tour rookie, a playoff loss in the Puerto Rico Open the lone bright spot in a season in which he has missed the cut 11 times in 21 events and is 148th on the money list.

But prior to U.S. Open sectional qualifying on June 8, Saunders borrowed a set of irons from his caddie, Travis McAllister. The clubs had slightly more flexible shafts than what he had been using, and he shared medalist honors at the qualifier. “Everybody wants to use the stiffest shaft there is and that isn’t always a good thing,” Saunders said.

They remained in his bag at Chambers Bay, where he hit 76 percent of greens in regulation (15 of 18 each of the last two days), a huge improvement from his 62.77 percent Tour average. “For me to hit the ball like that on this stage is really going to give me some confidence,” said Saunders, who missed the cut at Congressional Country Club in 2011 in his lone previous U.S. Open start.

McAllister better start looking for some new sticks. 

“They’re mine now,” Saunders said. “I’ll make sure to reimburse him in some way.”

Hurdzan Offers Preview of Erin Hills

One of the most interested U.S. Open spectators this week isn’t at Chambers Bay, but in Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Michael Hurdzan has been paying close attention to how the USGA has set up Chambers Bay, because in two years the U.S. Open visits Erin Hills, near Milwaukee, another fescue-covered, links-style layout with many of the same design features. Hurdzan co-designed the course with Ron Whitten, longtime architecture editor for Golf Digest.

“A couple of things stand out to me that I think will translate to Erin Hills,” Hurdzan said by telephone. “I think the variety of length of holes is going to come into play, and you’re going to see the same kinds of golf and decision-making.”

Erin Hills, which hosted the 2011 U.S. Amateur, won by Kelly Kraft, could play similarly to Chambers Bay if it receives the benefit of the same kind of weather that would make it firm and fast. The fairways will be lined by tall fescue and difficult bunkers lurk throughout.

There will be two major differences, however. The greens are not fescue, but rather bentgrass. And while the greens at Chambers Bay are set into hills that provide backstops or are set in bowl complexes that help keep the ball around the putting surfaces, the raised greens of Erin Hills are more traditional, running off into bunkers or chipping areas.

“Erin Hills could be a lot tougher in that regard,” Hurdzan said of the complexes. “Recovering will probably be more difficult. Miss a shot and you could pay a bigger penalty. And the greens will obviously play differently than fescue greens. I just hope we have that same early summer that they had at Chambers Bay because I believe Erin Hills will provide even more flexibility for [USGA Executive Director] Mike Davis in length and the landing areas.”

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites. Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.