Niebrugge Lifts the Amateur Prize
Jordan Niebrugge has become the first American since Tiger Woods to win the Silver Medal awarded to the leading amateur in The Open Championship.
The 21- year-old Oklahoma State student joined an illustrious list of Champions that also includes Rory McIlroy, after closing with a two under par 70 to claim an impressive two shot victory on 11 under par. It was one of the best races for the amateur prize the Championship has witnessed for years.
The American also climbed to a tie for 6th in the Championship making it the best finish by an amateur since England’s Chris Wood finished one place higher at Royal Birkdale back in 2008.
Altogether five amateurs - Niebrugge, Dunne, Oliver Schneiderjans, Ashley Chesters and Romain Langasque - battled for supremacy over the final two days of the Championship with the outcome only really decided down the Old Course’s notorious closing stretch.
Niebrugge started the final round three shots behind Dunne after opening rounds of 67, 73 and 67 but in the end it was to be Schneiderjans and Chesters who were to be his nearest challengers after Dunne struggled from the start.
The American raced to the turn in 33 with birdies at the 4th, 5th and 6th and then added his fourth birdie of the day on the 14th before dropping his of shots of the day at the 15th and 17th.
“This means the world to me,” said the American. “It’s great to win the Silver Medal and to do it at St Andrews makes it even more special. It’s definitely a dream come true.
“Now I want to do everything I can to play my way onto the (Walker Cup) team,” he added. “I’ve got a couple of events left so we will see how it goes.”
Earlier in the afternoon Schniederjans was the first of the leading amateurs to finish and he posted a fine five under par 67 to set the pace on nine under par 279.
The 22 year-old who hails from Dallas, Texas, but now lives in Powder Springs, Georgia, got his round off to a fast start with birdies on the 1st and 2nd but then dropped a shot on the third before storming to the turn with further birdies on the 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th. He also made a further gain on the 10th but dropped two shots from the left rough on the 17th before finishing in style with his seventh birdie of the day on the 18th.
“It was a great final day,” said the American before confirming he would turn professional with immediate effect. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more special and I’m now ready to go. My game is the best it has ever been. I’m proud of how I’ve come out of it and am hitting the ball really well.”
GB &I’s Walker Cup selectors will be pleased to learn Chesters has decided not to follow Schniederjans into the professional ranks until after the forthcoming Walker Cup.
The double European Amateur champion was the next to finish and he also ended up on nine under par 279 after carding a three under par 69 in which he raced to the turn in 32 and carded his fourth birdie of the day on the 10th before dropping his only shots of the day on the 15th. “I’m going to wait for the Walker Cup and hopefully this will do me no harm in getting picked for that,” he confirmed. “I’ve got to go back and defend the European Amateur. It will probably best just that and the Walker Cup but we’ll see what else comes up.
“It’s been a great tournament,” he added. “Apart from the last three holes in the first round and the 15th this afternoon I’ve not hit too many bad shots. I’ve played good this week so I’m really happy.
Dunne had started the final day with high hopes of winning both the Claret Jug and the Silver Medal but in the end he went home without any silverware after a ruinous 78.
The Irishman’s travails started when he fatted his second shot short of the Swilcan Burn on the 1st and he was fortunate to escape with another five on the 2nd after hitting two provisional balls from the tee. He bounced back with brave birdies on the 3rd and the 5th but dropped shots six shots on the inward nine to card a six over par 78 and slip all the way back to six under par 282.
“It was just one of those days,” admitted the 22 year-old from Greystones. “I just never settled into the round. I’ve always struggled in the rain a bit. The conditions didn’t suit me but that’s no excuse.
“The first three days were brilliant,” he added. “That was something I will never forget but I don’t think there are too many positives to put on a 78 in the final round.”
The fifth amateur to make the cut was Frenchman, Romain Langasque, who beat Scot, Grant Forrest, in the final of this year’s Amateur Championship at Carnoustie. He opened the Championship strongly with a three under par 69 but his hopes of a Scottish double disappeared after posting rounds of 72, 71 and 74 to finish on two under par 286. He indicated he will remain amateur long enough to accept his anticipated invite to next year’s Masters but will then turn pro ahead of the US Open. “The lure of the Masters is just too strong,” he said.