BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) — Ever since local caddie Francis Ouimet won the 1913 U.S. Open and sent British stars Ted Ray and Harry Vardon home empty-handed, The Country Club has not been kind to foreign golfers.
Two more Opens have been held here, and each was won by an American. Same with the two Walker Cups, three Women's Amateurs and five U.S. Amateurs at The Country Club — not to mention the 1999 Ryder Cup, in which the U.S. team rallied on the final day to beat Europe.
But there was Englishman Neil Raymond atop the leaderboard at the 113th U.S. Amateur on Tuesday after the completion of two rounds of stroke play, tied at 6-under par with Australia's Brady Watt. They are followed three strokes back by another Australian, another Englishman and a Canadian.
"It would be huge. It would be a great accomplishment for any of the English guys to win," said Raymond, one of five from his country to reach the 64-man match play round. "To have an opportunity to be a part of a group of guys doing great stuff around the world, it's showing that we really do mean business."
The Amateur is being played at The Country Club on the 100th anniversary of Ouimet's playoff victory over Vardon and Ray — an event that is credited with popularizing the sport in the United States and helping it expand from its traditional domain of wealthy Europeans. A century later, it is the Europeans who are hoping to make history.
No English golfer has won the U.S. Amateur since Harold Hilton in 1911. Korea's Byeong-Hun An, who won in 2008, was the last non-American winner.
"You look at the world rankings and we've got quite a strong field, a lot of English guys in the top 20, 25," said Matt Fitzpatrick, an Englishman who is planning to attend Northwestern this fall. "It's pleasing, and hopefully there might be an English winner."
Raymond shot a 67 at The Country Club in the opening round Monday and followed it with another at the 6,547-yard, par-70 Charles River Country Club on Tuesday to share the medalist honors with Watt, who shot 68 and 66. Fitzpatrick began at Charles River with a 67 and followed it with a 70 at the par-70, 7,310-yard TCC to wind up in a tie for third with Australian Oliver Goss and Justin Shin of Canada.
Nick Hardy, a Northbrook, Ill., high school senior who had the low score after the first round, followed an opening 65 with a 73 and was among three players tied for sixth at 2-under.
The top 49 golfers advanced to a six-round match play tournament, with the 17 who were tied at 4-over scheduled for a playoff on Wednesday morning for the remaining 15 spots.
"The tourney starts tomorrow," Watt said. "I love match play. I have played a lot of match play tournaments. The key will be to strike the ball well, but that's the secret in playing golf."
Defending champion Steven Fox finished at 6-over and missed the cut, as did Anthony Maccaglia despite a hole-in-one with a 5-iron at the 179-yard, par-3, 16th hole at TCC.
It is the 17th known hole-in-one in the history of the U.S. Amateur, the USGA said.
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