DAVID Micheluzzi stayed on course for success at the 124th Amateur Championship by winning his all-Australian contest to advance to the last 32 at Portmarnock in Ireland.
The top-ranked player in the field, sitting at seventh on the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), came through a tight tie with compatriot and good friend Kyle Michel.
Micheluzzi, who reached the quarter-finals at Royal Aberdeen last year, is seeking to become the first Australian winner of The Amateur since Bryden Macpherson in 2011.
Micheluzzi, who defeated Michel by two holes, said: “It was a grind, as I think I only hit three or four fairways.
“So I had to rely on hitting it out into the right spots and making putts inside 10 feet which I did.
“My short game and putting is what I do best and I’ve just got to hit more fairways and greens for now on. It’s an amazing course and a great test, there are no easy holes and you have to think on every shot.
“I was looking at my phone last night and saw that I was playing Kyle which was crazy. As two Victorian golfers, we wanted to meet each other later in the competition but these things happen.
“We train three or four times together in Australia and I see way too much of him in our programmes.
“We have a lot of fun and banter and it felt a bit weird playing a mate in this calibre of event.”
Australian now faces Sloman
The 22-year-old advanced to meet Somerset’s Tom Sloman in Thursday’s third round.
The Englishman, also ranked highly at 28th in the world, displayed all of his battling qualities to defeat fellow countryman Joseph Pagdin – the England junior international, who is based at Lake Nona, in Florida – by one hole.
Four down after 11 holes, Sloman was making plans to head home before the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup squad member produced a brilliant fightback that he capped on the final green.
Sloman said: “I thought I was going home, four down after 11.
“I was about to get on the phone actually and book my flight but I hung on in there. Joe didn’t play too great coming in and I played pretty well all day.
“I just didn’t hole any putts, until a couple late on, as he struggled. I got a little lucky at times, to be fair, but you take it when it comes.
“It’s a tough course and I’ve not had my best game but I’ve been grinding it out. I’ll need to get back on the range and hit more balls,” Sloman added.
Tom did not want to Plumb depths and add to leading qualifier KO’s
WITH Portmarnock hosting The Amateur Championship for only the second time since 1948, the famous links near Dublin is also being enjoyed by another English player.
And he wasted little time in reaching the third round after comfortably seeing off Spain’s Alejandro del Rey Gonzalez 7&5.
The Yeovil member raced to a five-hole lead at the turn and then almost holed his approach shot to the 11th – before sealing the contest at the 13th.
Plumb grew up playing junior golf at his club, which is affiliated to Dorset Golf Union – but sits over the county line in Somerset.
Tom said: “I kept things going from yesterday and started off quickly, making birdies on one and two.
“I struck it into the first hole to about six feet and holed about a 20-foot putt on the second. I felt if I kept playing like that it wasn’t going to be too much of a problem.
“I’m superstitious myself so you do think about the history of top qualifiers often losing in the first round.
“Regardless of where I go in the championship, I thought getting through the first round tie was going to be the hardest one.”
Jake Burnage is biggest English casualty
THE biggest casualty from the England ranks was Devon’s St Andrew’s Links Trophy winner Jake Burnage, from Saunton.
He was beaten at the 20th by Surrey’s Flanagan, winner of the 2016 Carris Trophy, at Hunstanton – another tricky links course.
In total, seven Englishmen made it through to the last 32 – including Hampshire’s Billy McKenzie.
The Williams Woods Universtiy graduate knocked out Castle Royle’s David Langley 7&6.
The Rowlands Castle player was beaten by the eventual champion Jovan Rebula, the nephew of Ernie Els, in Scotland 12 months ago.
McKenzie was joined in the third round draw by Northamptonshire County’s Ben Jones, Lindrick’s Bailey Gill, Hexham’s Matty Lamb, Redditch’s James Robinson, Ruddington Grange’s Daniel O’Loughlin and St George’s Hill’s Angus Flanagan.
There was also a convincing victory from Germany’s Matthias Schmid as he came close to the biggest margin of victory possible in matchplay.
The 21-year-old, a winner on the college circuit at the University of Louisville this year, won the opening five holes against Lincolnshire’s Sam Done and triumphed 9&8.
In another remarkable match, this time in a preliminary first round tie, Italy’s Giovanni Manzoni finally advanced at the 25th hole after a marathon meeting with Eduard Rousaud, from Spain.
Sugrue keeps Irish hopes alive at Portmarnock
ON another dry and sunny day at Portmarnock, the venue for the 1991 Walker Cup, Irish hopes also remain alive.
James Sugrue defeated West Cornwall’s Harry Hall by two holes, while Ronan Mullarney progressed after beating Wiltshire’s Jake Bolton 2&1.
In the day’s last match, England international Jones eliminated the Dane John Axelsen, who was the second-placed qualifier, by two holes.
The matchplay stage continues today with the last-32 and last-16 ties. The winner in Saturday’s 36-hole final gains an exemptions into The Open at Royal Portrush, next month.
They will also receive an invite to the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot. And, by tradition, they also get an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament – providing they retain their amateur status.
David Micheluzzi will be bidding to become the second Australian to reach the final in three years. Dylan Perry lost to Hampshire’s Harry Ellis at Royal St George’s, in 2017.
Entry is free of charge throughout the week for all spectators at Portmarnock.
•Follow live scoring and the progress of Micheluzzi here. You can find news updates and video on The R&A’s website and social media platforms.