Final four set at US Am

Jack Senior is an imposing presence on the golf course with his 6-3 foot plus frame that's more suited to a second row rugby player than an elite golfer. Yet perceptions can be deceiving, as Senior has shown during this US Amateur championship.

The Englishman's fine run of form continues after the world number 10 and 2011 Lytham Trophy winner accounted for 2009 Western Amateur champion, John Hahn, 3&2, in the round of 16 to then go onto dispose of talented Jordan Spieth, the current US Junior champion, 1-up, in the afternoon's quarter final.

Senior during his time down under won the NSW Amateur championship and was pivotal in the English win over the Australians at the Ashes Series in Sydney.

Recently named as part of the ten-man UK Walker Cup squad that will take on the United States at Royal Aberdeen next month, Senior is one match away from being the first English player in 83 years, since Phil Perkins back in 1928 at Brae Burn Country Club, to made the final at these championships.

It's Senior's first tour of the US, yet the Englishman has played extensively throughout Europe and Australia. Senior during the press conference following his win over Spieth remarked that he found the conditions here in the US were well suited to his game.

"This is the first time I've been over in the US," said Senior.

"It's something which I've always wanted to do and I feel that a lot of guys have said "˜get yourself out there because it suits your style of game', and I think this week's showed it certainly does suit me out here."

A quick recall of the US Amateur history books shows only one Englishman has won the championship, Harold Hilton in 1911 at The Apawamis Club on the 37th hole over American Fred Herreshoff. With the international media focused on Senior's advancement through the field and the possibility of the history books being re-written, Senior was remaining coy regarding his chances of placing another Englishman's name on the Havemeyer Trophy.

"I came in here this week with not a lot of expectation because I've been playing pretty poor back home and not been playing great," said Senior.

"But this week's just swung up on me and I've found a bit of form. That's the way it goes sometimes. This game is all about confidence and if you're confident out on the golf course, then you reap the rewards."

Senior's follow countryman and world number 3, Tom Lewis, was not so lucky after Patrick Cantlay sent the Englishman packing home with a solid 3&1 victory in their round of 16 match.

Cantlay has had his share of close encounters during these championships, yet continues to survive.

On Thursday, the world number 1 had to rally from behind and play 21 holes to get past fellow 2011 USA Walker Cup Team member Russell Henley. Cantlay trailed Henley by two with two holes to play, but won the next two holes before prevailing on the third extra hole.

In his match against Lewis, Cantlay again fell behind, trailing by two after four holes, still trailing by one after seven but fought back strongly to play the remaining 11 holes in 3-under par to outlast Lewis.

"Match play is tough, and no matter how many you are up, you're still focusing as hard as you can," said Cantlay.

"So I think everyone is drained to some degree, after 36 holes today and the rain delays and everything. I was able to play the shots that I was needing to and that helps me a ton. It's nice to know that I can pull those shots off when I need them the most. It definitely gives me a little momentum going into my next match, a little added boost"

In one of the surprises of the championships Jordan Russell eliminated defending champion Peter Uihlein, 2&1, in their quarterfinal match.

Russell has toured Australia and played solidly at the Master of the Amateur back in January. Ranked 24th in the world, Russell has impressive collegiate results to be considered one of the quiet achievers of the amateur game with numerous top-10 finishes in main events despite the illusive "W" missing from his list of achievements.

"You know, haven't won a lot, but I've finished in the top-5 a whole lot over the last two years," says Russell.

Russell, who is entering his senior year at Texas A&M University, took an early lead against Uihlein with a birdie on the par-4 fourth hole. His lead was extended to 2 up when Uihlein bogeyed the par-3 sixth. However, Russell allowed Uihlein to stay in the battle with two bogeys of his own to bring the match back to all square at the 12th.

"I knew it was going to be tough going in, especially when I was 2-up," said Russell, who advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating Bobby Leopold in 19 holes.

"You know, you're just expecting Peter to hit great shots. And, so when he got it back to all square, I wasn't surprised at all."

With the loss, Uihlein failed in his quest to become the first Amateur champion to retain the Havemeyer Trophy since Tiger Woods won three consecutive championships in 1994, 1995 and 1996. The attention now focuses upon whether Cantlay can win his first US Amateur title as he advances to his second semi-final in the same number of years.

Cantlay will face Russell in Saturday's opening semifinal match while Kraft will take on Senior to determine the finalist for Sunday's 36-hole encounter.

Kraft earlier had secured a 6&4 win over US Walker Cupper, Patrick Rodgers and promises to be a formidable opponent for Senior who knows the weight of his country are now upon his broad shoulders as they urge him on to create some history.

"I'm having a good time representing England and Great Britain & Ireland," Senior said.

"I want to keep going so I can make my friends and fellow countrymen proud."

It's just as well then that Senior is built like a tank and can fire his drives away. He'll need to be on target as we head into the serious end of this US Amateur championship.

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