Bailey closes U.S. Am stay with 70
By Bob West
The News golf columnist
CHICAGO — Though his second-round 70 wasn’t nearly enough to get him to the match play portion of the U.S. Amateur, Groves’ Braden Bailey walked away from his first experience on a course set up by the USGA confident that lessons learned will help him become a better player.
“I’m not discouraged at all,” said Bailey, who finished with a 36-hole total of 148. “It was a great learning experience against an extremely strong field on an extremely difficult course. The USGA really set it up tough. The rough was so high, if you missed the fairway and didn’t get a good
lie, you were chipping out.
“I’m pleased that I was able to bounce back from Monday with an even-par round, but it didn’t come easy. My short game saved me time after time. I’m leaving here knowing my short game can compete with anybody. My ball striking is what let me down. It needs work.”
The Port Neches-Groves ex, who starts his freshman year at Baylor next week, offset two bogeys with two birdies in his Tuesday round over the par-70 South Course at Olympia Fields. Both birdies came on his final four holes — the par-3 15th and the par-5 18th.
“It was nice to finish on a positive note,” he said. “I continued to struggle early in the day with my ball striking, but it got better as the round went along and was pretty good over the last six or seven holes. Looking back, that triple bogey on Monday killed my chances of making it to match play.”
Bailey’s triple bogey came on the 160-yard fourth hole (his 13th of the day). He flushed an 8-iron long left over a back left pin and drew a horrendous lie in the rough. With the face of his wedge wide open, he swung and went completely under the ball, moving it enough only to make the lie worse.
It took two more shots to get on and two putts.
“That took all the energy out,” he said. “I did my best to get back on track, but that really hurt.”
While it was of little consolation to him, Bailey wound up beating roughly a third of the players in the talented field, including University of Texas star Scottie Scheffler. Scheffler, who won three consecutive state championships while Bailey was playing at PN-G, and won the Phil Mickelson Freshman of the Year Award in college golf in 2015, shot 152 (79-73).
“He was playing right in front of me. I could tell he was struggling,” Bailey said. “On a course set up the way these two were, the very best players can have problems.”