OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) — Facing his largest deficit of the week and running out of time, James Piot won four straight holes to start the back nine at Oakmont and went on to win the U.S. Amateur on Sunday over Austin Greaser.
Piot closed out his 2-and-1 victory by going bunker-to-bunker on the reachable par-4 17th hole and saving par with a 20-foot putt. Greaser, who was 3 up at the turn, had an 8-foot birdie putt to extend the match. It spun off the left lip.
Piot, a 22-year-old senior at Michigan State, was mobbed by friends and teammates in their Spartans gear off the green and before long he was holding the gold trophy.
Groomed on a public course in Michigan called Fox Hills Golf and Banquet Center, he learned to battle by spending all day at the course with friends making up money games to play.
When he arrived at Michigan State and his coach encouraged Piot to strive to be All-Big Ten, Piot thought that was setting the bar too low. He wanted to be All-American.
And now he’s a U.S. Amateur champion.
“I still don’t believe I’m holding this trophy right now,” Piot said. “Internally, I thought I had the ability to do it. To actually do it is the greatest thing ever.”
It was a tough loss for Greaser, a junior at North Carolina. Trailing 1 down after the morning 18 holes, he won three of the opening four holes in the afternoon and made a pair of tough par putts to halve holes and stay in front.
With a par on the ninth, he went 3 up and looked tough to beat.
Piot didn’t bend and set a target of 4 under on the back nine — a tall order at Oakmont with greens that had been triple cut — and almost pulled it off. He had three birdies on his card without dropping a shot.
He started his rally with an approach into 3 feet on No. 10, the first hole he won since the 18th in the morning. Greaser three-putted from 15 feet on the next hole, running his birdie putt some 6 feet by the hole.
The match returned to all square on the par-5 12th after another mistake by Greaser. His 3-iron went into a deep bunker some 20 yards short of the green. He got that out to 70 feet, and his lag down a slick slope ran off some 20 feet and led to another three-putt bogey.
It was his seventh three-putt in the championship match.
Piot took the lead with a tee shot on the par-3 13th to 10 feet for a conceded birdie when Greaser found a bunker and failed to convert a 12-footer par putt.
The final blow was the 15th, when Greaser hit into the “church pew” bunkers down the left side, had to lay up and watch the speed and slope of Oakmont’s notorious greens send his wedge some 20 feet away for another bogey.
“I just didn’t execute on the back nine,” Greaser said. “He did. Hats off to him, he played a great back nine. The cards fell his way this time. It’s going to sting a little bit.”
The victory puts Piot into the three professional majors next year — the Masters, the U.S. Open at Brookline and the British Open at St. Andrews. Greaser gets into the Masters and the U.S. Open as the runner-up.