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2016 Masters field blog: Jin Cheng gets early Asian Amateur pass

Sun, 10/4/2015 12:44 AM
By Scott Michaux


This is the way the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship ends -- not with a final round shootout but a declared winner.


High winds and typhoon rains washed out Sunday's final round in Hong Kong, and sticking around another day or two at Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club to get it completed was apparently not an option, so the tournament organizers declared 54-hole leader Jin Cheng of China the champion and will send him to Augusta National in April for the Masters.


"This win just came so fast and so sudden,” said Jin, who fired a course-record 8-under 62 on the first day followed by rounds of 68-69. “I was ready for the (final) round, and unfortunately the weather didn’t work out, [but] it’s my pleasure to win this week. Going (to Augusta) next year is just amazing for me. I’m so excited and looking forward to it."


It was a sad conclusion for Australians Ryan Ruffels and Cameron Davis, who had closed within a shot of Jin after three rounds and were poised for a Sunday charge, weather permitting. It wasn't.


“It is extremely disappointing that we are not able to complete the final round of this year's Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship,” said David Cherry, the chairman of the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation. “It was a very difficult decision to make as we wanted to see the completion of 72 holes as much as all the competitors did. The competition committee was committed to completing the final round on Sunday if at all possible, however the extreme weather conditions meant that completing in daylight would not be possible.”


The decisive shot was struck on the 54th hole instead, with Jin getting up and down for a birdie on the par-5 18th to hang onto the lead that had been narrowing since his opening-round 62. The 17-year-old is the top-ranked Chinese amateur (No. 33 in the world prior to the tournament) and becomes the second teenager from China to win the event and reach Augusta, following Tianling Guan who became the youngest Masters participant at age 14 in 2012.


"I was really lucky that I had a great lie," Jin said of his crucial chip on Saturday. "I did exactly what I wanted to do. It was a good shot."


The premature conclusion denied Ruffels,the highest ranked amateur in the field at No. 8, and Davis a chance to play for the title. They would have to settle for an invitation to final qualifying for the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon as a consolation prize.


"Gutted would be the understatement of the year," Ruffels wrote on Twitter after the final round was cancelled. "Congrats to Cheng Jin on the win. Great player and deserves it."


The outcome did not disappoint Masters and Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne.


"While weather regrettably shortened the event, we have identified a very worthy and talented champion in Cheng Jin," said Payne. "This is a moment of celebration. He showed his tremendous skill during the championship and we look forward to welcoming him to Augusta next April. We know Cheng will proudly represent the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and everyone who loves the game from this region of the world."


How the latest first-time qualifiers made it to the 2016 Masters Tournament (see other first-time qualifier capsules below secured entry list). 


Jin Cheng, China

AGE: 17

RANKING:  No. 33 in the World Amateur rankings

HOW HE GOT THERE: When the rain-shortened Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship after 54 holes.

    Jin Cheng, the top-ranked amateur in China, raced to the early lead in Hong Kong with a first-round 62 and hung onto the lead with subsequent rounds of 68-69 to maintian a one-shot edge before the final round was cancelled due to inclement weather.

    Jin led by one shot over Australians Ryan Ruffels and Cameron Davis with a third-round 69 despite the threat of a looming typhoon that brought high winds to Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club. The critical shot came on his 54th hole at the closing par 5, when he chipped it close to make birdie and reclaim his one-shot lead that proved to be the clincher when the final round was cancelled the next day.

     "I was really lucky that I had a great lie," Jin said of his chip. "I did exactly what I wanted to do. It was a good shot."

    HE SAID IT: "Going (to Augusta) next year is just amazing for me. I’m so excited and looking forward to it."


Kevin Kisner, USA

AGE: 31

RANKING:  No. 35 in the world

HOW HE GOT THERE: Aiken native and former Georgia All-American reached the Tour Championship at East Lake to secure a spot in all four majors in 2016.

    Kisner's breakout season included losses in three playoffs -- at Hilton Head, the Players Championship and Greenbrier. He ran into red-hot world-class players in sudden death with Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler on birdie tears. At Greenbrier. he hopped into a wretched lie to bow out of a four-man playoff.

     Consistency has been the staple for Kisner in his fourth full season on the PGA Tour. Since returning east from the West Coast swing where the grasses don't suit him, Kisner has missed only three cuts in his last 20 starts and posted five top-10 finishes as well as a tie for 12th in the U.S. Open.

    HE SAID IT: “It’s a lifelong dream and goal of mine to play Augusta. I grew up going to the tournament, grew up so close to there. My whole life has been working to play it and tournaments like that. Although it might be the biggest nightmare as far as logistics and people wanting to go watch, it would still be probably the greatest thrill of my career.”

Daniel Berger, USA

AGE: 22

RANKING:  No. 93 in the world

HOW HE GOT THERE: Berger reached the Tour Championship at East Lake to secure a spot in all four majors in 2016.

    Berger is yet another one of the new generation of rising superstars on tour to reach the Tour Championship as a rookie.

    The former Florida State star came very close to reaching the 2015 Masters by winning the Honda Classic in March near his hometown of Jupiter, Fla. Berger fired a career-low, 6-under 64 in the final round to surge into the clubhouse lead. He waited nearly an hour watching TV and hitting balls before Padraig Harrington sank a 16-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff. On the second playoff hole at the par-3 17th, Berger hit his tee shot into the water to end his bid.

     Despite five top-10s and 10 top-25s in his rookie season through May, Berger slumped through his first summer on tour missing seven consecutive cuts from June through the end of the regular season. But his game came alive at the right time, tying for 12th at the Deutsche Bank and then contending and finishing xxxx in the BMW Championship to rally from 54th into the top 30 the last two weeks.

    HE SAID IT: “I want to be in that top 30 so I can play four majors next year, and it sets my year up for weeks to come. I've had a great year regardless of what happens.”


More first-time Masters qualifier capsules below field list and bottom of blog.


Updated through BMW Championship


Here’s how the 69 players already qualified for the 2016 Masters got into the field (# signifies first-timers) :


CATEGORY 1 (19 players)

Masters Tournament Champions (Lifetime)


Angel Cabrera (1) - Argentina

Fred Couples (1)

Trevor Immelman (1) - South Africa

Zach Johnson (1, 3, 16)

Bernhard Langer (1) - Germany

Sandy Lyle (1) - Scotland

Phil Mickelson (1)

Larry Mize (1)

Mark O’Meara (1)

Jose Maria Olazabal (1) - Spain

Charl Schwartzel (1) - South Africa

Adam Scott (1, 12) - Australia

Vijay Singh (1) - Fiji

Jordan Spieth (1, 2, 13, 14, 15, 16)

Bubba Watson (1, 15, 16)

Tom Watson* (1)

Mike Weir (1) - Canada

Tiger Woods (1, 5)

Ian Woosnam (1) - Wales


CATEGORY 2 (4 players)

U.S. Open champions (Honorary, non-competing after 5 years)


Rory McIlroy (2, 3, 4, 11, 15, 16) - Northern Ireland

Webb Simpson (2) -- through 2017

Justin Rose (2, 11, 14, 15, 16) - England -- through 2018

Martin Kaymer (2, 5) - Germany -- through 2019


CATEGORY 3 (2 players)

British Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing after 5 years)


Darren Clarke (3) - Northern Ireland -- through 2016

Ernie Els (3) - South Africa -- through 2017


CATEGORY 4 (3 players)

PGA Champions (Honorary, non-competing after 5 years)


Keegan Bradley (4, 13) -- through 2016

Jason Dufner (4) -- through 2018

Jason Day (4, 13, 15, 16) - Australia -- through 2020



CATEGORY 5 (1 players)

The Players Championship Winners (3 years)


Rickie Fowler (5, 11, 16) -- through 2018


CATEGORY 6 A&B (2 players)

Current U.S. Amateur champion (A, Honorary, non-competing after 1 year) and runner-up (B)


#Bryson DeChambeau (5A)

#Derek Bard (6B)


CATEGORY 7 (1 player)

Current British Amateur Champion (Honorary, non-competing after 1 year)


#Romain Langasque (7) - France


CATEGORY 8 (1 player)

Current Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion


#Jin Cheng (8) - China


CATEGORY 9 (1 player)

Current Latin America Amateur Champion


TBD Jan. 17


CATEGORY 10 (1 player)

Current U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion


TBD Oct. 8


CATEGORY 11 (10 players)

First 12 players (including ties) in previous year’s Masters


Paul Casey (11, 16) - England

Bill Haas (11, 16)

Charley Hoffman (11, 16)

Dustin Johnson (11, 12, 16)

Hunter Mahan (11)

Hideki Matsuyama (11, 16) - Japan

Ryan Moore (11)

Kevin Na (11, 16)

Ian Poulter (11) - England

Kevin Streelman (11)


CATEGORY 12 (3 players)

First 4 players (including ties) in previous year’s U.S. Open


#Cameron Smith (12) - Australia

Louis Oosthuizen (12, 13, 16) - South Africa

Branden Grace (12, 14) - South Africa


CATEGORY 13 (1 players)

First 4 players (including ties) in previous year’s British Open


Marc Leishman (13) - Australia


CATEGORY 14 (0 players)

First 4 players (including ties) in previous year’s PGA Championship


No additional qualifiers


CATEGORY 15 (8 players)

Winners of non-opposite PGA Tour events from previous Masters to current Masters


Steven Bowditch (15, 16) - Australia

Jim Furyk (15, 16)

#Fabian Gomez (15) - Argentina

Chris Kirk (15)

Danny Lee (15, 16) - New Zealand

#David Lingmerth (15) - Sweden

Davis Love III (15)

Shane Lowry (15) - Ireland

#Troy Merritt (15)


CATEGORY 16 (13 players)

Qualifiers for previous year’s season-ending Tour Championship


Sangmoon Bae** (16) - South Korea

#Daniel Berger (16)

Harris English (16)

J.B. Holmes (16)

#Kevin Kisner (16)

Brooks Koepka (16)

Matt Kuchar (16)

Scott Piercy (16)

Patrick Reed (16)

Brandt Snedeker (16)

Henrik Stenson (16) - Sweden

Robert Streb (16)

Jimmy Walker (16)


CATEGORY 17 (x players)

Top 50 on final Official World Golf Ranking for previous calendar year


TBD Dec. 21


CATEGORY 18 (x players)

Top 50 on Official World Golf Ranking published week prior to current Masters


TBD March 28


Living past Masters champions not expected to play (13)


Tommy Aaron

Jack Burke Jr.

Charles Coody

Ben Crenshaw

Nick Faldo - England

Raymond Floyd

Doug Ford

Bob Goalby

Jack Nicklaus

Arnold Palmer

Gary Player - South Africa

Craig Stadler

Fuzzy Zoeller


* -- Tom Watson announced in July that 2016 will be his final Masters as a competitor

** -- Sangmoon Bae will miss Masters while serving mandatory duty in South Korean military


How other first-time qualifiers made it to the 2016 Masters Tournament.

Bryson DeChambeau, USA

AGE: 21

RANKING:  No. 7 amateur in the world

HOW HE GOT THERE: DeChambeau beat Derek Bard 7&6 in the 36-hole final of the U.S. Amateur.

    DeChambeau rolled through the match play en route to an historic victory at Olympia Fields, joining Jack Nicklaus (1961), Phil Mickelson (1990). Tiger Woods (1996) and Ryan Moore (2004) as the only players to win the NCAA championship and U.S. Amateur in the same year.

     The confident SMU senior was a force to be reckoned with in every round, beating Robbie Saloman (8&6), North Augusta's Matt NeSmith (5&4), world No. 2 and Wa;ler Cup teammate Maverick McNealy (3&2) and British Open 54-hole leader Paul Dunne of Ireland (3&2) to reach the semifinals. With a shot at history and a Masters berth at stake, he never trailed in beating Sean Crocker (3&2).

     In the finals, DeChambeau was 2 down to Derek Bard of Virginia through seven holes before chipping in for birdie on the 8th to end a string of three straight lost holes. With the match all square through 13 holes, DeChambeau won 14, 15 and 16 to go 3 up. When Bard cut the deficit to 1 hole after 19, DeChambeau went on another tear winning seven of the next nine holes (three with birdies and one eagle) to take a commanding 8-hole lead before closing it out 7&6 on the 30th hole.

     “From then on out, I just said, put the pedal to the metal, hit shots close and let's play Bryson golf,” said DeChambeau.

     Asked if he would remain an amateur long enough to take advantage of his exemptions into the Masters and U.S. Open, DeChambeau said "Absolutely."

HE SAID IT: “I'm in golf history. That's pretty incredible. I don't understand it yet. I had a little bit of an understanding of what I just did, but I haven't felt the impact of it yet. There's only five guys that have done that, so it's pretty incredible. You had Tiger, Jack, Phil and Ryan Moore, right? So I'm the fifth guy. That's an honor to be in that field.”


Derek Bard, USA

AGE: 20

RANKING:  No. 51 amateur in the world

HOW HE GOT THERE: Bard beat Kenta Konishi of Japan in the semifinal of the U.S. Amateur.

    Bard, a rising junior at Virginia, never trailed Konishi in the semifinals, the first time in the match-play that he didn't have to rally. The Sunnehanna Amateur winner made an inspired run to the finals.

    After falling 2 down at the turn, Konishi did square the match with wins on 10 and 11. But Bard reclaimed the lead on the 12th with a par when Konishi failed to get up and down from a buried lie under the lip of a bunker. With the momentum back, Bard won the 14th and 15th holes to go 3 up and closed it with a halve on 16.

    After shooting 2-over to qualify as a 45th seed in the match play, Bard beat Davis Riley (4&3), UGA golfer Sepp Straka (6&5), world No. 4 Hunter Stewart (2&1) and world No. 1 Jon Rahm of Spain (1 up) just to reach the semifinals. In the 36-hole final, he finally lost 7&6 to NCAA champion and world No. 6 Bryson DeChambeau.

HE SAID IT: “It's been my dream as a little kid playing golf to play in the Masters and be a professional player. I didn't think I would be playing the Masters when I'm 20 years old. It's definitely come a little earlier than I thought it would, if it ever did. I can't wait. It hasn't sunk in yet. It's all been kind of dreamlike for me here but I'm sure once I look back and reflect on all this, I'll realize that I'll be teeing it up with the best names in golf I guess in April.”


Troy Merritt, USA

AGE: 29

RANKING:  Jumped from No. 180 to about 95th in OWGR after winning at RTJ Golf Club.

HOW HE GOT THERE: Merritt shot 14-under par (61-67) on the weekend to surge to a three-stroke victory over Rickie Fowler in the Quicken Loans National at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.

     It was a stunning turnaround for Merritt, who had struggled since missing out on a playoff at Hilton Head the week after the 2015 Masters. Merritt had missed the cut in seven of nine starts -- including five straight heading into the QL National -- since April, failing to finish better than T52 during that four-month stretch. "Nice to be playing the weekend after a  2-month break,” Merritt said on Twitter after making the cut. “Felt the time was right to play all 4 rounds instead of just 2."

     Before his victory, he was on the bubble for qualifying for the PGA Tour playoffs and retaining his tour card.

     Previously, Merritt's biggest payday came in 2010 when he won a playoff with Fowler and Aaron Baddeley to win the $1 million Kodak Challenge for having the lowest cumulative score on 18 of 30 selected holes over the course of the season. Asked what he'd do with the windfall, Merritt said "The first thing I'm going to do is buy my wife a brand-new car." 

HE SAID IT: Of his shrug after final birdie putt dropped: “It’s amazing how you know you can dream about winning a golf tournament your entire life and you got it scripted and when it happens, you’re not thinking.  You don’t remember what your name is. You’re just reacting.”


David Lingmerth, Sweden

AGE: 28

RANKING:  Jumped from 212th to 71st in OWGR after winning Memorial.

HOW HE GOT THERE: Made par on the third playoff hole to beat Justin Rose at Muirfield Village and earn his first PGA Tour victory.

     Lingmerth made a strong first impression as a PGA Tour rookie in 2013, reaching a playoff in the Humana Challenge in only his second tour start. A few months later he also tied for second in his Players Championship debut.

     It didn't come easy for him in the Memorial. He looked like a sure winner when Rose shanked a shot into the head of a spectator on the 72nd hole, but the Englinshman got up and down to force a playoff. Then Rose made a 20-footer for birdie on the first playoff hole, forcing Lingmerth to make his 10-footer just to extend the match.

     Lingmerth bolstered his credibility and name recognition with strong performances including stints atop the leaderboards at the British Open and PGA Championship.

HE SAID IT: "The Masters, it's been a dream for so many golfers. I've been dreaming about that tournament for so long, it's going to be awesome. I'm super happy about that.”


Cameron Smith, Australia

AGE: 21

RANKING:  No. 89 in OWGR after his finish at U.S. Open.

HOW HE GOT THERE: Smith delivered perhaps the shot of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay when he came within inches of an albatross on the 72nd hole that vaulted him into a tie for fourth place.

     That shot and resulting eagle earned him not only a place in his first Masters but Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour for the remainder of the 2014-15 season.

     A top Queensland amateur player, Smith turned professional as a teenager in 2013 and met with immediate success on the Asian and Australasian tours, including 10 top-10 finishes in 2014. He kicked off the 2015 season with a tie for second in the Queensland PGA Championship and a T4 in the New Zealand Open.

     Smith wasn't too shabby in his second major start either, finishing T25 at the PGA Championship.

HE SAID IT: “I can’t put it into words at the moment, to be honest,” Smith said after being told of all the spoils that came with his tap-in eagle, including a return to the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. “No, it still hasn’t really sunk in. No, I have no idea. Like I said, I’m speechless.”


Romain Langasque, France

AGE: 20

RANKING:  No. 28 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking after his British Amateur win.

HOW HE GOT THERE: Langasque beats Scotland's Grant Forrest 4 and 2 in the 36-hole final of the British Amateur Championship in June at Carnoustie.

     Langasque, from Cabris in southern France, took charge in the morning round with three consecutive birdies to take a 4-up lead through eight holes that built to 5-up through 11. Forrest cut the margin to 3 down after the first 18, but fell behind seven holes in the afternoon and finally conceded on the par-3 16th hole.

     Langasque is the third French golfer to win the British Amateur, joining Philippe Ploujoux (1981) and Julien Guerrier (2006).

     The Amateur Championship not only got Langasque to Augusta, but it qualified him to play in the 2015 British Open at St. Andrews (where he tied for 65th) and the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. 

HE SAID IT: “This is just a dream for me,” said Langasque. “It is just incredible that I am going to play at St Andrews in one month’s time for The Open.”


Fabian Gomez, Argentina

AGE: 36

RANKING:  No. 131 after winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis.

HOW HE GOT THERE: Gomez shot four straight rounds in the 60s in Memphis, including a 4-under 66 in the final round to pull away from a share of the 54-hole lead with Greg Owen of England. He won by four strokes, becoming the fifth Argentinian winner on the PGA Tour joining Angel Cabrera, Roberto De Vicenzo, Andres Romero and Jose Coceres.

     His first victory not only brought him an automatic berth in the Masters but also earned Gomez fully exempt status on the PGA Tour through the 2016-17.

     Gomez honed his game with tips from his mentor along with playing many rounds with Cabrera. He already had won twice on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica in Buenos Aires in 2013 and 2014.

HE SAID IT: “Winning a tournament is a big thing because you have two-year exemption and after that probably play a little less stressful every week and not thinking too much 'Keep your card,' you know. Just only win another tournament. Even if I won many tournaments, winning here on the PGA Tour is something amazing, and I'm going to enjoy the moment with my family."

Categories: Local

Educated Guesses Week 5: Soggy mid-terms for UGA, Clemson

Sun, 9/27/2015 10:58 AM
By Scott Michaux

The biggest home football weekend of the season is unfortunately coinciding with monsoon rains associated with Hurricane Joaquin.


Georgia welcomes Alabama and Clemson plays host to both Notre Dame and ESPN's College GameDay on Saturday, and the weather is expected to be miserable for both. Perhaps the rain and muck will produce one of those epic, weather-mageddon battles that will one day look great on a 30-for-30 feature given the NFL Films treatment.


More than likely, it will diminish the strengths of the fine football programs on the field and mask the outcomes in phrases like, "if the field hadn't been under water" or "the wind allowed anyone to pass" to leave doubts to who really was the best team. It would be a terrible way for Nick Chubb's chasing of Herschel Walker's 100-yard streak to end, not by a fearsome Alabama defensive front capable of doing it by itself but by a weather front that left everyone with spinning wheels in the turf.


The atmospheres at both Sanford Stadium and Death Valley could be at their epic peaks even if the rain is unceasing, but those places are never better than on glorious October Saturdays with as much as stake as there is for all four teams.


Let's hope the weather leaves things playable for the teams and tolerable for the fans and that players and attendees get through the day safely. Because Alabama won't be back between the hedges for at least 12 years and it took Notre Dame 38 years to come back to Clemson since the last time. It would be a shame to have two events that so many have looked forward to be ruined by something nobody can control.


Anyway, here's Week 5's educated guesses:


Alabama @ Georgia: The Bulldogs seemingly have the better team but the Tide has the better experience in these games. Will Georgia's (and Mark Richt's) need to win overcome Alabama's (and Nick Saban's) historical comfort? BULLDOGS 27, Crimson Tide 24.


Notre Dame @ Clemson: Neither team may be quite as good as advertised, but Tigers may be hungrier. TIGERS 21, Fighting Irish 20.


North Carolina @ Georgia Tech: Triple-option should have no trouble moving this week, but can it stop UNC no-huddle? YELLOW JACKETS 42, Tar Heels 35.


South Carolina @ Missouri: Two proud coaches with not a lot of team to be proud of this year. TIGERS 20, Gamecocks 17.


Georgia Southern @ Louisiana-Monroe: An important Sun Belt road game against team that's played mostly SEC schedule. EAGLES 27, Warhawks 17.


Ole Miss @ Florida: Another miracle Swamp victory and Gators will be a real threat in SEC East. REBELS 31, Gators 20.


Mississippi State @ Texas A&M: Big test to determine Aggies' "for real" status after Arkansas scare. AGGIES 38, Bulldogs 28.


West Virginia @ Oklahoma: Sooners favored by a TD is insulting to WVU. Upset special. MOUNTAINEERS 35, Sooners 31.


Kansas State @ Oklahoma State: Technically this is a battle of unbeatens, but K-State hasn't really beaten anybody. COWBOYS 27, Wildcats 20.


Arizona @ Stanford: Cats got a little exposed last week against UCLA. CARDINAL 41, Wildcats 27.


Liberty @ Georgia State: It's time for Georgia State to win some winnable games. PANTHERS 28, Flames 21.




Winners: Georgia, South Carolina, Georgia Southern, Mississippi State, Southern Cal, UCLA, TCU, Michigan.

Losers: Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Oregon.


Year-to-date record: 33-11 (.750)


2014 record: 116-61 (.655)


2013 record: 126-50 (.716)


2012 record: 117-48 (.709)


2011 record: 115-51 (.693)


2010 record: 97-49 (.664)


Categories: Local
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