20 Sep 2019 | Amateur golf |
Michel on a major high with US Mid-Am win
by Mark Hayes
Australian Lukas Michel will play in the 2020 Masters and US Open.
Michel, 25, today pulled off yet another remarkable comeback to become the first international winner of the United States Mid-Amateur Championship at the Colorado Golf Club.
Michel, a member at Metropolitan and a key component of the past three triumphant Victorian Interstate Series teams, toppled Mississippi’s Joseph Deraney in a pulsating final.
The 2&1 victory in the 36-hole decider on the rock-hard course south of Denver punched the Aussie’s ticket to two of next year’s major championships – a prize he’s yet to wrap his head around.
“Unbelievable … almost too good to be true,” Michel said when asked how the title sounded.
“I guess it will sink in in the coming hours or days. But, yeah, I mean, I'm looking forward to what comes with it in the future for my golf.”Remarkably, Michel became the second Australian this year to win a USGA event, following fellow Melburnian Gabi Ruffels, who won the US Women’s Amateur crown in August. Another Victorian, Sue Wooster, was also runner-up in the recent US Senior Women’s Amateur.
Victory will mean an invitation to play Augusta National in April’s Masters, and also a berth in the US Open at famous Winged Foot in New York, the site of Geoff Ogilvy’s 2006 major triumph.
“I wore a Winged Foot sweater for the first nine holes today. Played there last year. Just a casual round with a member … so I guess I've got an early look at the course there,” Michel said.
“(But it’s) unbelievable. I mean, many, many golfers, the best in the world, don't get the opportunity to play a major, let alone the US Open.
"And as a kid growing up in Australia, watching the Masters final round on a Monday morning is pretty much the best morning of the year.
"Yeah, can't wait.”
Michel hadn’t led the final from the fourth hole and trailed by as many as three holes as late as the 23rd. But five birdies in his final 11 holes enabled him to close out victory on the 35th green with what turned into an awkward par.
Both players had hit the green on the long par-3, with Michel to putt first. A solid, curling lag putt finished about 1m from the cup, narrowly outside what might have been “gimme” range.
Deraney’s birdie putt to win the hole and extend the match slipped narrowly by and when he took his hat off in frustration, it was initially thought by observers to be a sign of concession to Michel.
“With the length of it (my second putt), I was like really confused,” Michel said.
“That putt is not a conceded putt. But he came up, shook my hand, and I think he said, `Sorry. That's not good, I thought it was shorter’, or something like that.
“I was like, `OK’. (I was) not sure what was going on with that. I just had to reset and still holed the putt.
“Somehow it lipped it in right edge, and then I went and ran up and hugged Will (American caddie William Davenport after a huge jump).
“I didn't want to damage the greens, but they were so firm I don't think I could,” he joked.
A day earlier Michel had won the final three holes of his semi-final to beat previous champion Stewart Hagestad 2-up and taken 20 holes to win his quarter-final.
He’d also been 2-down through 10 holes in his Round of 32 match and also trailed early in his Round of 64 match.
Against Deraney, Michel twice was 1-up early, but found himself 3-down through 10 after the American’s mini birdie spree.
Michel found his best late in the morning round and pulled back to square by the 17th, only to lose the 18th and go to lunch 1-down.
A couple of Michel bogeys on the 21st and 23rd holes again had the Aussie 3-down, but that’s where the match changed complexion for one last time.
Michel, the 46th seed who’d been spectacular on the par-5s throughout the week, made birdies on the long 25th and 28th holes to pull within one.
He then made a birdie three on the 30th to draw level, halved the par-4 32nd with a birdie, then made it a hat-trick of birdies on the ensuing par-5s to push clear and win at the 35th.
Michel cited great putting as his chief weapon throughout the week, helping his rallies.
“Putting is the last thing you do on a hole, so when you're having a good putting day it's obviously going to look like you're doing everything you can to get back in the hole, which is, I guess, what I did,” he said.
“It wasn't my best ball striking day. It was mediocre. Joe hit the ball way better than me. But when you're putting good it always looks like you're sort of coming from behind and making it happen.
“I just had a really good process. The putts had been going in earlier in the week, and just kind of a positive feedback loop when something is going your way.
“If you keep confident, it keeps going your way.”
Michel’s road to glory
69-76 in stroke play to earn the No. 46 seed R64: d Marc Engellenner 2-up R32: d Nick Nosewicz, 2&1 R16: d Dan Ellis, 4&3 Quarters: d Jacob Koppenberg on the 20th Semis: d Stewart Hagestad 2-up Final: d Joseph Deraney 2&1 (36-hole decider)
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