UCLA's Cantlay to face Texan Kraft in 36-hole finale at U.S. Amateur

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Patrick Cantlay, the world's No. 1-ranked amateur, beat Jordan Russell 4 and 3 Saturday to earn his spot in the finals.
By
Associated Press and PA Sport

Series: Other Tour

Patrick Cantaly's impressive summer just keeps getting better.

The UCLA star will face Kelly Kraft for the U.S. Amateur championship after both players won their semifinal matches at Erin Hills on Saturday.

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US AMATEUR

The U.S. Amateur is being played for the first time at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, which also will host the 2017 U.S. Open.

A win in Sunday's final would be another big step for Cantlay, a player who many are pointing to as a future star in the professional ranks -- especially after proving he belonged in an appearance at the U.S. Open.

"It's been very special," Cantlay said. "Probably the most fun I've ever had in my life."

Cantlay, the world's No. 1-ranked amateur, beat Jordan Russell 4 and 3 on Saturday. Kraft, of Denton, Texas, beat England's Jack Senior 3 and 2 in the other semifinal.

Kraft, 22, has played out his eligibility at SMU but still has a year of school left. He'll have a tough test in the final against a player with Cantlay's credentials, but says he's up for the challenge.

"We're both playing the same golf course tomorrow, and we've both made it this far, so we're both playing pretty good," Kraft said. "I like my chances out there tomorrow."

After two days of stroke play to set the 64-man field earlier in the week, the remainder of the tournament is conducted in a match-play format. Cantlay and Kraft will play 36 holes in Sunday's final, with the first 18-hole round beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Cantlay, 19, is going into his sophomore season at UCLA. He was the low amateur at the U.S. Open, tying for 21st place. He also tied for 24th at the Travelers Championship in June, shooting a 10-under 60 in the second round.

Cantlay currently sits atop the world amateur rankings maintained by the R&A.

The second, third and fourth-ranked players, Americans Jordan Spieth, Peter Uihlein and Patrick Rodgers, all were defeated in Friday's quarterfinals. Uihlein was the defending U.S. Amateur champion.

Uihlein beat Cantlay in the semifinals of the 2010 U.S. Amateur.

"I didn't feel nearly as nervous as I did in the semifinal this year as I did last year, so I think that has something to do with the all the tournaments I've played," Cantlay said.

Cantlay's match with Russell was all square after six holes, but Cantlay birdied the 617-yard, par-5 seventh hole to go 1-up in the match. Cantlay bogeyed the next hole but still added to his lead as Russell took a double bogey.

"That kind of got me started," said Cantlay, who never relinquished the lead from there.

"Once Patrick got the momentum, he just played like he always does," Russell said.

Russell, 22, from Texas A&M, beat Uihlein in the quarterfinals; Uihlein called Russell the "most underrated player in college golf."

"This week was great," Russell said. "I mean, making it this far, I had some really tough matches early on and played really well in two others."

Kraft took the lead on the third hole and never trailed again to Senior.

"I still have one more round to go tomorrow, so I don't want to get too high before then," Kraft said. "Kind of want to keep it at an even keel until then, and then I can hopefully do some celebrating after tomorrow."

Senior failed in his bid to become the first English golfer to win the U.S. Amateur in a century. However, the 23-year-old will be part of the Britain and Ireland team at the Walker Cup in two weeks at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland.

The last English winner was Harold Hilton, who at the time had already captured two British Open titles and was 42 years old.