I love match play. In my mind, it is the most exciting form of golf, and is one of the reasons I am so happy that the US Amateur has come to Michigan.
For the Wednesday morning session, I decided to follow the match between Nick Carlson and Zach Foushee. Carlson is a University of Michigan sophomore. Foushee is a senior at Oregon.
It was a good choice. The players were evenly matched, and played through the 17th hole. The gallery was probably the largest on the course, thanks to Carlson’s Michigan supporters. In addition to his family, several of Carlson’s Michigan teammates and coaches followed the action.
Here’s an account of the match between Carlson and Foushee. If I got any of the distances wrong, I apologize in advance. I was relying on my GPS to guestimate what was going on.
Hole 1: Par 4, 462 yards
Foushee’s tee shot lands in the rough behind bunkers on the right, some 170 out. Carlson drives straight down the middle, settling at 140 to the green.
A great recovery out of the rough puts Foushee on the green with his second. Carlson overcooks his second, sailing the green and landing outside the cartpath behind the green. His lob back to the green catches the edge of the back tier and rolls fifty feet away. The putt back up the hill curls toward the hole, hesitates on the lip, then drops.
Foushee two putts.
All square after 1.
Hole 2: Par 5, 522 yards
Carlson’s tee shot is in the middle of the fairway, 240 to the green. Foushee finds himself in the second bunker on the left of the fairway, also about 240 out. Foushee hits a long iron out of the bunker and finds fairway short of the green. Carlson’s second hits the green.
Foushee’s third is a nice pitch uphill from 80 yards out. Carlson is away on the green, and confidently drains the putt for an eagle three.
Carlson 1 Up Through 2.
Hole 3: Par 3, 193 yards
Carlson finds the green, but is facing a long putt. Foushee’s shot is just off the green right, short sided. Foushee’s chip with a wedge rolls 6 feet past.
The first putt for Carlson slides just past the hole, but leaves him with a short putt. Foushee misses his putt on the low side, taps in for a four. Carlson makes a clutch putt right into the center of the hole.
Carlson 2 Up Through 3
Hole 4: Par 4, 447 yards
Still holding the honors, Carlson’s drive hugs the left side of the fairway, leaving him 120 to the green. Foushee is twenty yards back, also on the left.
Foushee’s second gets him to the front of the green. Carlson’s rolls to the left middle of the green. Carlson is away; his putt sill leaves him with some work to do. Foushee putts close. Carlson concedes the putt, then drains his own.
Carlson 2 Up Through 4
Hole 5: Par 4, 486 Yards
Carlson’s drive is in the rough right of the fairway bunkers, some 200 to the green, with the ball below his feet. Foushee’s drive also leaves him some 200 out, but he is in the fairway.
A spotter marks Carlson’s ball with a flag. “Thank you sir,” Carlson says. “Thanks for helping today.”
There is a long wait for the group ahead to clear the green.
Carlson’s shot is 50 yards short of the green. Foushee is on in regulation.
A pitch for Carlson goes past the hole, leaving him with a tricky downhill affair. The putt hangs on the edge for a second, then falls. Foushee takes advantage of Carlson’s offline drive and short second. He drains the birdie putt to get back a hole.
Carlson 2 Up Through 5
Hole 6: Par 4, 317 Yards
A long wait at this hole for the group ahead to clear the green. Both Foushee and Carlson are going for the green.
Foushee makes it to the front green edge, but a long, long way from the hole. Carlson is closer to the upper tier, but left just off the green. A coin flip determines who’s away.
The long uphill putt from Foushee slides just past the hole. Carlson’s wedge leaves him with a four or five footer. He makes the putt. Foushee follows the birdie with one of his own.
Carlson 1 Up Through 6
Hole 7: Par 4, 438 Yards
Carlson’s tee shot finds the pond on the right. Foushee’s lands 180 from the green on the left side of the fairway.
Dropping the ball at about 160 out, Carlson hits to the front right edge of the hole. Foushee is on the green, but has a long putt. Foushee’s putt comes close. Carlson misses his putt high and concedes the hole.
All Square Through 7
Hole 8: Par 4, 474 Yards
With the honors, Foushee hits it to 200, but is off the fairway in the right rough. Carlson is 180 out and in the fairway.
Foushee’s second finds a bunker on the right side of the green. Carlson mishits and leaves the ball hanging in the rough just above a right greenside bunker.
A nice shot out of the bunker leaves Foushee with a short putt. Carlson hits a brilliant high lob to inches. Foushee concedes the putt, then sinks his own.
All Square Through 8
Hole 9: Par 3, 156 Yards
Foushee hits his tee shot to the front left. Carlson hits a slope on the green and watches his ball roll down the front edge.
A long putt by Carlson just slides by and goes long. Foushee’s is close enough for Carlson to concede. Carlson then makes his par.
All Square Through 9
Hole 10: Par 4, 465 Yards
Foushee’s drive lands on the edge of the left fairway bunkers, about 180 to the green. Carlson’s finds the left side rough, some 160 out.
The second for Foushee finds the front left edge of the green. Carlson’s shot rolls to the back right edge.
Carlson’s ball has landed on a sprinkler head. He gets a drop, which is fortunate, because it is away from the fringe, giving him a free swing on his putt. Foushee’s putt is long, up and over a hump in the green to about three feet.
There’s not enough energy in Carlson’s putt, and he leaves it somewhat short. Both walk away with pars.
All Square Through 10
Hole 11: Par 4, 409 Yards
Foushee’s drive leaves him 180 out on the lower fairway. Carlson stripes the ball past the left side hill to find fairway below, and just 120 from the green.
The second from Foushee rolls to the rough on the right side of the hilltop green. Carlson’s however, is short, catches the edge of the green and rolls back down to the bottom of the hill.
Carlson’s recovery gets him to within a foot. Foushee, aiming well away from the hole, hits a nice little lob that catches the top of the green’s back left mound and rolls to a foot.
Both putts are conceded for pars.
All Square Through 11
Hole 12: Par 5, 596 Yards
Foushee hits the left rough at about 250 to the green. Carlson finds the fairway and is about the same distance out. The second from Foushee is 130 short of the green. With a fairway metal, Carlson misses the green right, landing near the 16th tee box.
Foushee pitches up to the green. Meanwhile, Carlson hits a lob that catches a ridge in the center of the green, then rolls to within 10 feet of the hole.
A long putt from Foushee gets it close. Carlson concedes that putt and then drains his own for a birdie.
Carlson 1 Up Through 12
Hole 13: Par 3, 153 Yards
Carlson finds the right rough, just off side the green. He’s short-sided. Foushee hits the green.
A lob from Carlson goes too far, catches a ridge on the green and rolls far away. His comeback putt misses right. Foushee, on the other hand, gets it close. Carlson concedes the hole.
All Square Through 13
Hole 14: Par 4, 476 Yards
Foushee rolls right off the fairway. Carlson is in the center. Both at about 180 yards. A coin toss decides the order of play. Both players end up in the rough left of the green.
A lob from Foushee goes well past the hole. Carlson chunks his shot and it barely makes the green. Foushee’s putt misses a little left and Carlson concedes the next. He then sinks a medium length putt to go 1 up.
Carlson 1 Up Through Fourteen.
Hole 15: Par 4, 398 Yards
Carlson drives his ball over the center of the bunkers to the middle of the fairway, leaving him with around 90 to the green. Foushee finds the right rough about 95 to the hole, under some overhanging branches.
Foushee’s low shot rolls to just off the back of the green. Carlson’s wedge also takes him to the back of the green. A chip from Foushee slides past the hole, still leaving him with a medium putt. Carlson’s putt from the fringe misses inches right and rolls past.
Foushee’s comebacker misses, and Carlson concedes the short putt. Carlson then sinks his par putt to go 2 up.
Carlson 2 Up Through Fifteen
Hole 16: Par 4, 402 yards
Carlson’s drive hugs the right side and stops at about 160 from the green. Foushee’s drive is well left, under some trees, about 180 out.
From under the trees, Foushee finds the greenside left bunker. Carlson’s high shot over the pond rolls to the back, just off the fringe.
Foushee hits a nice bunker shot just past the hole. Carlson hits a little flop to inches. Foushee concedes the putt, then makes his own clutch shot.
Carlson 2 Up Through Sixteen
Hole 17: Par 3, 243 yards
Carlson’s tee shot finds the greenside bunker right. Foushee is on the green.
The bunker is deep and steep faced. Carlson can’t possibly see the flag from there. Ht hits a high wedge to within several feet of the hole.
Foushee misses his birdie attempt. He needed that to extend the match. Carlson sinks his putt for a par and wins 2 and 1.
Carlson 2 Up Through Seventeen; Carlson wins 2 and 1.
After the round, Carlson talked about how match play is “different but awesome.”
“It’s different golf, Carlson said. You play the course, but also the other kid. If you see them do something, or if they see you do something, your strategy may change.”
Carlson was pleased with the 40 yard bunker shot on the seventeenth. “My short game was just ridiculous today. It is not often that you hit a 40 yard bunker shot to five feet.”
Also, about the long putt on the first to avoid going one down after one: “The putt on that first hole was a 50 foot bomb. I just love the way the greens roll here.”
And on his style of play: “I always play agressively,” Carlson said. “My radius to hole is always super close.”
Carlson noticed the gallery, and how close they were to the action. “It was pretty cool to have a large gallery. The claps really help. I’ve never had it like that with so many people so close. But as long as they’re not moving when I take my shot, it’s okay.”
“Actually,” Carlson continued, “I think everyone is learning while they’re watching. I like that.”
Michigan Golf Coach Chris Witten was following his player and said “Nick did a good job of playing the course rather than the other player. He is one of our more animated guys and plays well when he has momentum.”
“You can’t play defense in golf,” Witten added.
Carlson tees off at 8:10 am on Thursday against No. 6 ranked amateur Scott Gregory of England.