Date: August 18, 2017
Author: Mark Hayes

Surgical Smyth storms into quarters

He’s a cool cat, Travis Smyth.

So cool that when he hit what turned into the shot that advanced him to the quarter-finals of the US Amateur Championship today, he was just as happy to have won a bet with his caddie.

The New South Welshman made a stunning birdie from a fairway bunker on the 17th hole at famous Riviera Country Club, a spectacular final act in closing out the talented Will Zalatoris 2&1 in their round of 16 clash.

And capping a great day with two on-course victories, he also ate in style after winning dinner off his caddie, long-time pro Jon Levitt.

“I said to Jon that if I get this up and down, he owes me dinner … and he’s taking me!” Smyth said with a smile after reaching the last eight in a quest to emulate good mate Curtis Luck in sporting a manbun to the highest honour in amateur golf.

It was a small price to pay for Levitt, a successful touring pro who played in the 2000 US Open who might just sell a lot more of his recent book on the mental principles of golf should Smyth edge past another American, Doc Redman, tomorrow for a berth in the semi-finals.

Smyth, from Shellharbour, but who plays his pennant for St Michaels in southern Sydney, was left as the last Aussie when Mark Lawrence Jr edged Queenslander Shae Wools-Cobb by the same score with a par on the 17th minutes beforehand.

Earlier, the Hunter Valley’s Dylan Perry bowed out in a tense round of 32 match with another American, Collin Morikawa, whose par on the final hole was enough for a 1-up victory.

Smyth, 22, runner-up at the 2016 Australian Amateur, was seemingly in control of his match when he raced to a 4-up lead through eight holes and returned to that buffer when he birdied the 10th.

Zalatoris, who has already played events on the US PGA Tour, kept at it, though, and found himself within one hole of Smyth through 14 holes.

But Smyth would not be headed.

Pars on the 15th and 16th for the manbun-resplendent right-hander took him to the 17th still 1-up, but he soon found himself in a left fairway bunker, 50m short of the par-five green in two.

Unfazed, though, he hit a spectacular blast that spun to about 2m past the pin and then duly rolled in the birdie putt to sink Zalatoris.

Smyth, who has enjoyed a consistent northern summer in the United States and Britain without savouring victory, has watched his world amateur ranking rise to No.29. Redman comes into this week ranked No.70.

After beating pair of collegiate All-Americans today, including Braden Thornberry earlier, Smyth said he was trying to avoid thinking of his quality opponents.

“I'm looking at a fairway, I'm looking at a green, and I am looking at a hole. The more I think about how good these guys are, which is pretty easy to do because everybody is good, I think that's just taking me away from what I need to do,” he said.