(PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif.) – Norman Xiong, of San Diego, Calif., who won the Western Amateur two weeks ago, Mark Lawrence Jr., of Richmond, Va., and Hayden Wood, of Edmond, Okla., each posted 6-under-par 64s to share a two-stroke lead over the field after the first round of stroke play in the 117th U.S. Amateur Championship.
Wood, 21, a junior at Oklahoma State University and the son of Willie Wood, who plays on the PGA Tour Champions, notched seven birdies against a bogey at Riviera.
Lawrence, 20, a junior at Virginia Tech who shared the team’s player of the year award, posted two eagles (on Holes 1 and 8), three birdies and a bogey at Bel-Air Country Club, which hosted the U.S. Amateur the last time it was played in Southern California in 1976. Both courses are playing at par 70 for the championship.
Xiong, who also earned stroke-play medalist honors at the Western Amateur, took some time off after that grueling victory.
“I knew I was playing well, but that tournament took so much out of me,” said Xiong, who was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and the Pac-12 Freshman of the year. “I had to rest for a long time. The only golf I've played since then was the last two practice rounds.”
Xiong, who is No. 9 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking ® (WAGR), was sharp despite the layoff.
“I just went out and played my game,” said the 2017 Jack Nicklaus Award semifinalist. “I just tried to keep it in play, hit a lot of greens, give myself a lot of chances. I didn't want to shoot myself out the first day. My main goal was to make it to match play. That's what this tournament is about, so that was my expectation, just to get in.”
Wood cited his accuracy off the tee as a contributor to his scoring opportunities. He played the six-hole stretch from No. 7 to No. 12 in 4 under.
“I shot 3 under on the front,” Wood said. “I had some up and downs and stuff, and then I birdied 10, 11, and 12 and went, ‘All right, this is going to be fun.’”
Wood, who also played in the 2015 U.S. Amateur, emphasized advancing to match play.
“It feels good,” Wood added. “It's a match-play tournament so the tournament starts on Wednesday. To be able to shoot a score like that gets me going.”
The U.S. Amateur consists of 36 holes of stroke play on Aug. 14 and 15, after which the 312-player field is reduced to the low 64 scorers. There will be six rounds of match play, starting Aug. 16. The quarterfinals and semifinals are scheduled for Friday, Aug. 18 and Saturday, Aug. 19, respectively. The championship concludes with a 36-hole final on Sunday, Aug. 20, starting at 7:45 a.m. PDT.
Lawrence won the 2017 Virginia State Amateur, the same title his father won in 1980, began his round with an eagle on Bel-Air’s par-5 first hole.
“I hit it in the right rough and then I had a little bit of a tree in my way, so I just had to hit a high fade with a 5-iron and hit it to about 10 feet left of the hole and made the putt.”
He followed with a birdie on the fifth and an eagle on the eighth to complete his first nine holes in 5 under. Lawrence added birdies on holes 11 and 13 to reach 7 under, but a bogey on the 18th was his only blemish.
“It is definitely up there,” Lawrence said of the pride he took in his performance. “I'm confident with how I played and happy with how I played. Again, it’s just one round. I’ve got to play well going forward.”
Charleston Southern University senior Arthur Griffin, 21, of Lake Placid, N.Y., posted a 4-under 66 at Bel-Air that included an eagle, six birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey to trail the leaders by two strokes.
Two players were three strokes behind: Georgia Tech sophomore Andy Ogletree, of Little Rock, Miss., and University of Texas senior Doug Ghim, of Arlington Heights, Ill., who posted 3-under 67s at Riviera.
Among the eight players at 68 were Joaquin Niemann, of Chile, No. 1 in the WAGR (at Riviera) and University of California-Berkeley senior Collin Morikawa, of La Canada Flintridge, Calif. (at Bel-Air).
Brad Dalke, the runner-up in the Amateur in 2016 and a member of the University of Oklahoma’s NCAA Championship team, shot 75 at Riviera.
Only 27 players broke par – 11 at Riviera and 16 at Bel-Air.
The U.S. Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.