Aussie Luck wins U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills
Bloomfield Township — Curtis Luck needed 21 holes — three more than regulation — to beat Michigan's Nick Carlson and advance to the U.S. Amateur championship.
Much of Sunday, it didn't look like he'd need a heck of a lot more than that in a scheduled 36-hole final that eventually only lasted 32.
Luck, 1-down to Oklahoma's Brad Dalke through the first hole on the second 18 of the day, then reeled off eight consecutive hole victories to roll to a 6-and-4 victory at Oakland Hills Country Club, becoming just the third Australian to win amateur golf's most prized tournament.
Nick Flanagan was the last Australian to win, in 2003; prior, it was Walter Travis, in 1900, 1901 and 1903.
Luck accomplished the feat with his dad on the bag, and his mom and grandparents in the gallery, all over here from Perth.
"It's pretty unlikely for an Aussie to win a USGA event and have a lot of their family here to support," Luck, who counts fellow Aussies Jason Day and Adam Scott among his idols, said during the closing ceremony, after being presented the Havemeyer Trophy. "Just so great they could come here.
"It's been such a great week."
Dalke, 19, struggled mightily with his driver Sunday, especially on the second 18 holes, and the real dagger came on the 26th hole, the 470-yard, par-4 seventh.
Trying desperately to stop the bleeding, Dalke, from more than 200 yards out and hitting from the thick rough right of the fairway, drilled a low, long iron to within 4 feet of a back pin.
But Luck, 20, hit a beautiful 7-iron approach into the wind to 15 feet short of the flag, drained the putt — and Dalke then missed, putting Luck, the No. 7-ranked amateur in the world, ahead by six holes.
"That was a turning point in the match, for sure," Dalke said.
Luck then won the next hole to go 7-up.
During that eight-hole stretch, Luck shot 4 under to Dalke's 5 over.
Dalke finally won a hole, the 28th, and then won the next one, when Luck missed par putts. To start the second 18, none of the first 11 holes were halved.
But while a spirited sign of life, by then it was far too little, too late for Dalke.
Luck closed it out with an up-and-down par on the 504-yard, par-4 14th hole. Dalke missed a 6-footer to potentially keep the match alive.
"The driver got a little away from me," Dalke said just after the round ended. "Afternoon, just didn't quite have it.
"Curtis is a great winner and he definitely deserved it."
The final didn't go as planned, but Dalke still outlasted 310 other competitors during the week — and, oh, got to meet Tigers ace Justin Verlander on Saturday night.
The final match was a tight one through the morning 18 holes, which ended all-square. Dalke then won the 465-yard, par-4 first hole — hole No. 19 — to take the early lead in the afternoon 18. But it all felt apart from there, and Luck took full advantage.
Amazingly, Luck almost didn't even make the final. Carlson, the Michigan sophomore, had a 4-footer on the 17th hole in Saturday's semifinal to win and advance, but just burned the edge. Luck then won No. 18 to send the match to extra holes, made a 12-footer on the first playoff hole to stay alive, hit an all-world fairway bunker short to match birdies with Carlson at No. 11, then won it with birdie on the 12th.
Luck called that bunker shot one of the two most critical of his week, joining a hybrid out of the bunker on the par-5 12th to 3 feet in the Round 2 of stroke play.
"If someone had come up to me walking from the 17th tee to the green (Saturday) and said, 'We think you're going to win,' I would have laughed at them and said, 'Nice one, mate,'" Luck said. "To be sitting here now with the trophy just — it's kind of a surprise to me, really."
Both Luck and Dalke get invitations to the 2017 U.S. Open and Masters, and Luck also gets into the 2017 British Open. Luck had planned to turn professional this fall following the Asian Amateur, but can't if he wants to play in those marquee events — plus some PGA Tour events that typically invite the U.S. Amateur champ — he's now entitled to.
OAKLAND HILLS CHAMPIONS
1922 Western Open: Mike Brady
1924 U.S. Open: Cyril Walker
1929 U.S. Women's Amateur: Glenna Collett Vare
1937 U.S. Open: Ralph Guldahl
1951 U.S. Open: Ben Hogan
1961 U.S. Open: Gene Littler
1964 Carling World Open: Bobby Nichols
1972 PGA: Gary Player
1979 PGA: David Graham
1981 U.S. Senior Open: Arnold Palmer
1985 U.S. Open: Andy North
1991 U.S. Senior Open: Jack Nicklaus
1996 U.S. Open: Steve Jones
2002 U.S. Amateur: Ricky Barnes
2004 Ryder Cup: Team Europe
2008 PGA: Padraig Harrington
2016 U.S. Amateur: Curtis Luck