PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The whimsy and difficulty of golf on the Monterey Peninsula was never more evident than in what transpired during qualifying for the U.S. Amateur on Tuesday.
Augustans Charles Howell and Jeff Keck survived through to match play, while several of golf's preeminent amateurs, such as former champion Matt Kuchar, did not.
Howell, the 20-year-old Augustan who plays out of Augusta Country Club, came through with a 3-over 75 Tuesday at Spyglass Hill to go with his 3-over 74 Monday at Pebble Beach. His 149 qualified him for match play, which begins today.
Keck, the winner of the Augusta City Amateur in July, also squeaked through, shooting a 74 at Spyglass. He shot 77 at Pebble Beach on Monday for a 151 total, which was good enough to survive an 18-man playoff for the final 12 spots.
But Kuchar, the Georgia Tech student who smiled his way around Augusta National in 1998, shot an 81 Tuesday at Pebble. His 36-hole total of 73-81 -- 154 was two shots too high for the playoff.
Four Augusta-area golfers also did not advance.
Nash Elliott, who plays out of West Lake in Martinez, had a 79 at Spyglass, for two-day 154; Brian Scurlock, shot 78 at Pebble for 156; Jeff Knox shot an 81 at Spyglass for 161; and John Engler an 82 at Pebble for 162.
The two finalists are invited to the 2000 year's Masters.
Johnny Miller, who has played Pebble Beach hundreds of times and won the 1968 California Amateur and three Crosby/AT&T's here, caddied for his son, Todd Miller. The younger Miller qualified for match play with a 4-over 75 at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.
"It's tougher than I've ever seen," Johnny Miller said. "It's brutal."
Howell, the academic All-America at Oklahoma State, called Pebble "unbelievable."
"It's extremely narrow, with high rough, and Spyglass, if you miss the fairway, you can't get to the green," Howell said.
Howell, the GolfWeek second-ranked amateur, said he knows a strong performance in match play might put him on the Walker Cup team.
"So I'd like to play well here, and make it for a good reason," Howell said.
Medalist was Gene Eliott, a 37-year-old heavy industry salesman from Des Moines, Iowa, followed his even-par 72 at Spyglass on Monday with an even-par 71 at Pebble.
Although it's always been par-72 for every event, including three previous Amateurs and U.S. Opens, Pebble was changed to par-71 for the Amateur and the 2000 U.S. Open. The fifth hole, a 500-yard par-5, is now 488-yard par-4.
"They got some beautiful scenery here," said Howell, whose best Amateur finish is getting beat in the round of 16 in 1996.
"But once play starts I don't think anybody is looking. We're trying to focus on the job at hand."
Kuchar struggled Tuesday, making double bogeys on Nos. 2 and 10.
"I was sort of unlucky," Kuchar said. "I didn't miss by much. I just had a lot of bad breaks."
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