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Lee takes momentum into U.S. Amateur
This isn't how Danny Lee expected to prepare for the U.S. Amateur -- not that he's complaining.
The world's top-ranked amateur could have worked out the few kinks in his game with a practice round or two at Pinehurst, N.C., before the national championship of amateur golf begins today.
Instead, he went some 75 miles across the state to Greensboro to tune up with the pros after making his first start on the PGA Tour. Perhaps even more remarkably, he stuck around the Wyndham Championship longer than anticipated after making the cut.
"Playing with all these great golfers out here and competing with those great golfers, I think, is going to make me develop my game and give me lots of confidence when I get ready for [the U.S. Amateur]," Lee said. "I think it's a good opportunity to play in this.
The New Zealander and Western Amateur champion is, of course, one of the favorites to claim the Havemeyer Trophy and the perks that come with it -- invitations to next year's U.S. Open, British Open and Masters, plus the next 10 U.S. Amateurs, as long as he remains an amateur.
To do that, he'll have to emerge from the field of more than 300 players who will tee it up for two days of stroke play at a pair of courses at Pinehurst, the Donald Ross-designed No. 2 and the No. 4 that was redesigned in 1999 by Tom Fazio.
The field will be trimmed to 64, and five days of match play will follow on the resort's centerpiece course, the 101-year-old No. 2 that was the site of two U.S. Opens and is hosting a third in 2014.
Pinehurst has long been a favorite site for the USGA to determine a champion; it has played host to eight previous championship events, including the U.S. Senior Open in 1994 and the U.S. Women's Amateur five years earlier.
But this marks just the second U.S. Amateur held in the North Carolina sandhills, and first since 1962.
Tournament officials have promised the course won't be set up quite as brutally as it was for the U.S. Open in 1999 and 2005.
"The more you play it, the more you find out about the course -- where not to miss it, especially," said Clemson's Phillip Mollica, who won the North and South Amateur last year at No. 2 and has played there about a dozen times. "It's going to be more about hitting fairways, getting the ball in play off the tee versus a couple of years ago when the rough was down and you could really hit it anywhere out there. It's going to be a premium hitting fairways."
One of the downsides to Lee's longer-than-expected weekend with the pros is that there's no time to get a feel for the Pinehurst courses. After finishing his round at Sedgefield, Lee planned to drive down from Greensboro on Sunday night in advance of his Monday morning tee time on course No. 4. Then, he plays No. 2 on Tuesday afternoon.
Then again, he did get plenty of work on another original Ross design -- the Sedgefield Country Club course that played host to the Wyndham. Lee shot a 3-under 67 on Sunday and finished in a tie for 20th at 12 under, nine strokes off the lead.
"The bad thing is, I couldn't play a practice round (at Pinehurst), so I'll have to just use my caddie for playing those courses," Lee said. "Still, I'm confident I'll still play well."