The Western Amateur: One to win!

As far as amateur tournaments go, The Western Amateur is one of the prized amateur championships on the world golfing calendar.

First played in 1899 the names of Tiger Woods (1994), Justin Leonard (1992-3), Phil Mickelson (1991), Chris DiMarco (1988), Scott Verplank (1985), Ben Crenshaw (1973) and Jack Nicklaus (1961), are some of the greats to have claimed the championship title.

The format of The Western Amateur is simply pure and arguably doesn't get any better.

At the beginning 156 invited players come from across the globe to play on courses that are set up similar to the US Open with tight fairways and hard greens, like that of the splendid North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Illinois, just north of Chicago, venue for this year's event.

After the first two days and 36 holes the field will be cut to the low 44 scores and ties. Those 44 and ties play 36 more holes in hopes of qualifying for the top-16 who then progress to elimination match play which is scheduled to commence this Friday, with the semi-final and championship match to be played on Saturday.

According to the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking, this year's field is the best ever for the Western Amateur and looks to be one of the top amateur fields ever to be assembled in a main world amateur tournament.

The stats are simply impressive, even eye popping and do the Western Golf Association prod for organising an event of this stature.

This Western Amateur has secured 30 of the top-50 amateurs, 13 of the top-20, and 6 of the top-10, including the top-4 world ranked amateurs. Turn the focus to the top-50 and organisers are claiming that no other amateur event in history can match the field of the 2011 Western Amateur.

Reading the tee-time list for the opening two rounds and you tend to agree with their remarks.

The late news last week was that Tom Lewis had also entered the event with the world number 3 rounding out the top-4 that's playing in Chicago.

The 20-year-old Englishman recently shot the lowest round by an amateur ever in The Open Championship with a 5-under par 65 at Royal St.Georges in the opening round to co-lead the championship before going onto secure the Amateur Medal.

Lewis toured Australia last summer where he also secured the Amateur medal at the Australian Open in November, having been pipped by tour journeyman, Peter O'Malley, on the third extra play-off hole at The NSW Open in the Hunter Valley the week earlier.

Last Saturday the USGA named four players for their Walker Cup team which interesting includes the remaining three of the world's top-4 amateurs competing this week.

Harris English who pipped Tarquin MacManus at the Southern Amateur a few week's back before winning the Children's Hospital event on the Nationwide Tour , Oklahoma State's Peter Uihlein who's the reigning US Amateur champion, UCLA's Patrick Cantlay, Golfweek's college player of the year who made headlines in several PGA Tour starts this summer and Georgia graduate Russell Henley, winner of this year's Stadion UGA Classic on the Nationwide Tour, have been selected to represent the USA in the bi-annual event against the UK in September at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.

Cantlay is the world's number 1, Uihlein number 2 and Henley is number 4.

The competition for the US team's final six spots narrowed with victories last week by Patrick Rodgers at the Porter Cup and Chris Williams at the Pacific Coast Amateur being added to the US team.

Rodgers as is Williams are also playing this week, while Rodgers is not.

The inclusion of the world's best highlights the rightful number 2 world tournament ranking, behind that only of the US Amateur championship The Western Amateur attains.

The "who's-who" of world amateur golf has descended up the historic North Shore Country Club, located 40mins north of Chicago and the venue of the 1933 US Open and 1939 and 1983 US Amateur. It sets a wonderful stage for a great week of golf.

Ten Australians and three New Zealanders are in this week's field.

Tarquin MacManus has arguably being our best performer this US summer with a runners-up finish at the Southern Amateur and just last week was in the hunt at the Porter Cup where the 2011 Master of the Amateur champion secured another top-15 finish.

MacManus is accustomed to playing against fields as strong as this, being based in Arizona for the last four years and will be seeking to claim his first main amateur title in the US.

Bryden Macpherson created history in becoming only the second Australian to win the British Amateur title back in June when he defeated Scotland's Michael Stewart, 3&2, at Hillside Golf Club in England.

Macpherson is another Australian based here in the US playing for Georgia and has the game and experience to win an event like The Western. Should MacPerson make the match-play segment, I strongly favour his chances.

New Zealand's Ryan Fox is a tenacious competitor and cruncher of the golf ball. Fox played well last week at the Porter Cup and is mentally strong enough to survive the qualification rounds and from there should not be discounted.

Ryan McCarthy also comes off a strong performance at last week's Porter Cup, as is Tim Hart.

McCarthy thrives playing in these bigger events and last year was impressive at the US Amateur progressing to the top-16. Like Fox, McCarthy can zone-in and win big match-play encounters, an attribute necessary to win here. Hart also will be seeking to establish himself in an event of this stature and is solid when in the breech.

Todd Sinnott is also worth monitoring and could be a surprise package in this event. Sinnott has played consistent golf in his maiden US tour with numerous top-20 finishes, including a tied 9th at the Players Amateur.

Should either of these make it through to the elimination match-play segment, they will be armed and dangerous and be seeking to go one better than Kieran Pratt's efforts last year where Pratt played stellar golf making it through to the semi-finals, only to be pipped on the 19th by Gregor Main after making birdie on the 18th to force a sudden-death playoff.

The remaining Australian contingent includes Rory Bourke, Brett Drewitt, Nathan Holman, Tim Hart, Kalem Richardson and Daniel Nisbet.

The Australians have traditionally done well at The Western Amateur. Bronson LaCassie won the title in 2006, Michael Sim finished runner-up in 2005 and Kieran Pratt flew the Aussie flag strongly last year at Skokie Country Club.

With a field list that's arguably the best that's being assembled so far this season in the US, the Australians will need to be on fire to make any mark in Chicago. They'll also need plenty of ticker, yet there are some who lack the match fitness needed to win at this level irrespective of earlier stroke play performances.

There's simply too much talent in this tournament and if previous year's encounters are an indication, only the very fittest and strongest will survive.

It's how a tournament should contested and that's why The Western Amateur is one to win.

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