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Sunday, August 28, 2011
Updated: August 29, 7:04 AM ET
Patrick Cantlay proved his mettle in loss

By Farrell Evans
ESPN.com

1. Can't miss

Even though Kelly Kraft beat Patrick Cantlay 2 up to take the 111th U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills on Sunday, Cantlay proved why he is the best American player of his generation.

Patrick Cantlay
Although Patrick Cantlay finished second at the U.S. Amateur on Sunday, he did receive a nice consolation prize: A spot on the U.S. Walker Cup team.

Coming into the week at the 7,760-yard par-72 links-styled layout, the 19-year-old UCLA sophomore was the No. 1 amateur in the world and a proven commodity in pro tournaments. The Pac-10 player of the year was the low amateur at this year's U.S. Open at Congressional, where he finished in a tie for 21st.

In May at the Travelers Championship, he tied for 24th. In the second round of that tournament, he shot a 10-under 60 to set the course record. It was the lowest round ever by an amateur on the PGA Tour. Cantlay followed those performances up with a ninth at the Canadian Open and a 20th at the AT&T National in Philadelphia.

To get into the finals against the 23-year-old Kraft, Cantlay had to go through several great players. On Thursday in the second round, it took 21 holes for Cantlay to get past Russell Henley, who won the Stadion Classic on the Nationwide Tour in May. Henley will be his U.S. Walker Cup teammate when the matches start on Sept. 10 at the Royal Aberdeen G.C. in Scotland.

Then on Friday in the round of 16, Cantlay beat Tom Lewis 3 and 1. Lewis, a member of the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team, was the low amateur at the British Open and tied for the lead after the opening round at Royal St. George's.

In Saturday's semifinals, Cantlay beat Jordan Russell 4 and 3. Russell had taken down Peter Uihlein, the defending U.S. Amateur champion, 2 and 1 in their quarterfinal match.

But Kraft, a 2010 SMU graduate, proved to be too much for Cantlay in the 36-hole final.

In his previous matches, Cantlay had been able to make comebacks. After the morning 18, Kraft was 2 up, but Cantlay drew the match square after 23 holes. Then the lead went back and forth until Kraft went on top at the 34th hole when Cantlay three-putted the par-3 16th hole. After both made pars at No. 17, Cantlay was 1 down going into the final hole. At the 675-yard, par-5 18th, Cantlay missed a 5-footer to force extra holes.

While Cantlay will return to UCLA in a few weeks, Uihlein is making the unusual decision of going to Q-school on both the PGA Tour and European Tour. However, he plans to return for his senior year at Oklahoma State.

Uihlein told Golfweek that he plans to turn pro after the 2012 NCAA Championship and that the Q-school trips were designed to help him gain experience.

Cantlay, Kraft and Uihlein will be teammates on one of the strongest U.S. Walker Cup teams in recent years. The squad also will include Georgia Bulldogs Henley and Harris English, both of whom won on the Nationwide Tour this summer.

While Cantlay will be the second-youngest member of the U.S. contingent after Jordan Spieth, who is 18, the U.S. Amateur runner-up is certain to be a leader against the Great Britain and Ireland squad.


2. Why bother?
At 7,760 yards, the USGA made Erin Hills the longest course to host a USGA championship, yet 25 amateurs broke par Monday during the first round of stroke-play qualifying. With the typical elite player now averaging almost 300 yards off the tee, courses would need to be stretched to more than 8,000 yards to fully challenge players with length. It's too bad the USGA is bringing the U.S. Open to this wonderful but overly long course in 2017.

At the Barclays this week we had a very short course by today's standards (6,964 yards) and no one complained about how short it was. Players rarely complain about hitting wedges into greens. And Pebble Beach, always one of the shortest courses every year on the PGA Tour at less than 6,900 yards, is a great test, particularly when it's set up for the U.S. Open.

While the governing bodies shouldn't legislate shorter courses for the pros, they also shouldn't try to make them longer to keep pace with the club technology, which is going to get better every year.


3. But for Brittany...

The 25-year-old Lincicome won her second event of the year on the LPGA Tour on Sunday at the CN Canadian Women's Open with a 1-shot win over Stacey Lewis and Michelle Wie. Lincicome and Lewis are the only two American women to win in a 2011 LPGA Tour season that has been dominated by Yani Tseng, who has won four of the 17 events on that tour's schedule.

When the Solheim Cup matches start in late September in Ireland, presently six out of the top 10 women in the Rolex Women's World ranking could not qualify because they are Asian.

Lincicome, who is ranked 10th in the world rankings, is the best American female player, despite Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer ranking ahead of her on the list, third and ninth, respectively. Lincicome could be the star of the American movement that we thought Wie would become when she first emerged on the scene as a 13-year-old phenom.


4. Calc and Cochran
On Sunday, Mark Calcavecchia beat Russ Cochran on the first playoff in the Boeing Classic at the TPC Snoquaimie Ridge in Washington state. Calc got his first win on the Champions Tour in his 31st start.

When I talked to the 1989 British Open champion, now 51 years old, just before he made his Champions Tour debut back in 2010, he told me that he was looking forward to playing the senior circuit because he was tired of working like a dog to just make cuts. Plus, he had just built a big new home and needed money to pay for it.

The guy he beat in the playoff was one of those journeymen who needed the Champions Tour to revive his career. When the 52-year-old Cochran joined the Champions Tour in 2009, he had not played a full season on the PGA Tour since 2004. But last year he won the SAS Championship for his first win since taking the 1991 Western Open.

In July, he beat Calc by two shots at the Senior British Open. This was sweet revenge for Calc, but I doubt that Cochran is doing too much complaining. He's made $1.1 million, his best year in his 31-year pro career.


5. The Barclays and Tim Finchem
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem had a tough decision to make this week. He could have tried to force the tournament into a Monday finish or turn the first leg of the FedEx playoffs into a 54-hole event. In the end, Dustin Johnson outlasted Matt Kuchar for his fifth PGA Tour win in a tournament that didn't lack for anything.

The tour and Barclays handled the unforeseen weather calamity with expert care. The players and fans got an exciting Saturday finish with a strong leaderboard.

Plainfield Country Club, which hadn't hosted a professional tournament since Laura Davies won the U.S. Women's Open there in 1987, didn't pose much of challenge to the best players in the world with soft conditions nullifying the difficult green complexes.

The good news is that in 2015, when the Barclays comes back to the venue, it will get a chance to redeem itself.

Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at evans.espn@gmail.com