U.S. Amateur Hammer’s run ends with loss to Hovland in semifinals

August 18, 2018

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Cole Hammer’s quest to win the U.S. Amateur ended Saturday when the Houstonian was defeated by Norway’s Viktor Hovland in the semifinals.

Hovland birdied six of seven holes he played on the back nine to win 3 and 2 and advance to the 36-hole championship match at Pebble Beach Golf Links, where he will take on UCLA sophomore Devon Bling, who ousted Stanford senior Isaiah Salinda 1-up.

Hammer, who graduated from The Kinkaid School and is about to start his college career at Texas, stayed close throughout on a foggy morning that was conducive to low scores because of the softer than usual greens.

Hammer evened the match with a birdie on the par-4 11th hole before Hovland took over. The junior at Oklahoma State responded with five consecutive birdies to become the first golfer from Norway to advance to the U.S. Amateur final.

“I’m not mad about the way I played, I’m just disappointed that I kind of ran into a buzzsaw,” Hammer said. “We both played great golf; he just played a little better. I think he made six birdies in seven holes on the back nine, and there’s really not much you can do.”

Hammer, who won the Western Amateur and the U.S. Four Ball Amateur Championship previously this summer, was hurt by his drive into the bunker on the par-4 15th hole.

“I birdied 11, 12 and 14 to kind of stay within reach,” Hammer said. “So I was 1-down and then just made a mistake, hitting it in the bunker on 15, and that kind of sealed the deal.”

Hovland had such an easy time in the quarterfinals and round of 16 that he didn’t even need to play the 13th hole. So when he got pushed by Hammer a bit in the semifinals, Hovland responded.

“I hadn’t played 13 and 14 and 15 in a few days, but I knew what to do,” Hovland said. “It wasn’t like I was taken off guard. I knew that most likely I was going to do that. I just stuck to my game plan, just let it all happen.”

Hovland became the first player in 40 years to win consecutive matches at the U.S. Amateur by at least seven holes when he beat Kristoffer Reitan and Austin Squires 7 and 6 in the previous two rounds.

“I just tried to do what I do when I practice,” Hovland said. “I’ve always kind of been that way. When there’s pressure on the line and I need to hit a good shot, I tend to perform better than I do if I’m just slapping balls on the range.

“I just try to stick to my game plan and execute the shots that I knew I could, and the ball just came out the way I wanted it to.”

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