JAPAN RACES TO 6-STROKE LEAD AFTER ROUND 1, SPAIN IS SECOND
Conducted by the International Golf Federation (www.IGFgolf.org) Hosted by the French Golf Federation (www.ffgolf.org) igfgolf.org/watc/watc-2022 | #WATC2022 and #IGFgolf | mediacenter.usga.org
When: 31 August 2022
What: 32nd World Amateur Team Championship for the Eisenhower Trophy
Where: Le Golf National (Albatross) and Golf de Saint-Nom-La-Bretèche (Red), Paris, France
Japan, with Taiga Semikawa shooting 9-under 63, distanced itself from a tightly packed leaderboard with a 14-under-par 130 to take a six-stroke lead over Spain in the first round of the 32nd World Amateur Team Championship.
“I know this is the world’s biggest stage, the biggest stage on the planet,” Semikawa said. “I am stunned. I really trust my teammates. I didn’t feel any stress today. I felt comfortable and is why I had such a low score.”
Austria, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the host nation France share third place, seven strokes behind Japan.
Playing in the afternoon at Golf de Saint-Nom-La-Bretèche, 2022 Japan Amateur Champion Kohei Okada shot a 5-under 67 with six birdies and Taiga Semikawa, fueled by a 6-under front nine, had 10 birdies to pass the morning wave leaders.
Keita Nakajima, the two-time Mark H. McCormack medal winner as the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®, shot a non-counting 72.
“We have two new boys, first time at this level, so I am extremely pleased with them,” said Japan’s Captain Gareth Jones. “They didn’t seem to show many nerves. They felt the freedom to play their own golf games. They didn’t have restrictions on them. They all drive the ball a long way and that’s an advantage at St. Nom.”
Also at Golf de Saint-Nom-La-Bretèche, Spain’s David Puig shot a 6-under 66 and Josele Ballester added a 2-under 70.
“We know we are a strong team, but we started with two double bogeys on the second hole,” said Spanish Captain Carlos De Corral. “But after that we created a lot of birdie opportunities. David Puig was four under after eight holes and is playing confidently. We have the feeling we could have been better than 8 under.”
Germany’s Jonas Baumgartner, who plays at Oklahoma State University, notched nine birdies enroute to a 6-under 65 and teammate Anton Albers shot 1-under 70 at Le Golf National.
“Today, my putter was really hot,” Baumgartner said. “I hit a lot of good shots that were pretty close, and I made a lot of putts, especially on the front nine. I was really comfortable on the greens, and they are rolling perfect. I had a good read on them and just kept going.”
France, vying to become the first host country to win since the USA at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1980, posted a 4-under 67 from Martin Couvra and a 3-under 68 from Julien Sale.
“We were under a lot of pressure today, the first day of championship,” said French Captain Antoine Delon. “I am so, so happy and proud of my players. But it is going to be a long, long tournament. But we are so happy for the start.”
Austria used the combination of Christoph Bleier (68) and Maximilian Steinlechner (69) for their share of third. Bleier posted an eagle and six birdies in his round.
Italy, with Open Championship low amateur Philippo Celli shooting 67 and Marco Florioli shooting 68; Sweden, led by Tobias Johnsson’s 67 and Switzerland, led by Cedric Gugler’s 66, were the other teams in third.
The USA and England share ninth place. A pair of 3-under 68s by Austin Greaser and Michael Thorbjornsen accounted for the American score and England received the same scores from Sam Bairstow and John Gough.
“I think I was two missed clubs away from a really low one,” said Greaser. “Today, going out early, we had some good conditions, low winds, kind of softer on the greens and we were definitely able to fire at some of those flagsticks more than you typically would.” Greaser, who plays for the University of North Carolina, won the 2022 Western Amateur and was runner-up at the 2021 U.S. Amateur.
Taiga Semikawa, Japan: “I was aggressive, but I stayed with our plan from the practice rounds. I played well at the Japanese Collegiate Amateur before this. But on the back nine, the fans from France cheered for my birdies and that motivated me.”
Captain Ulrich Eckhardt, Germany: “Jonas putted brilliantly today. He holed a lot of long putts. It was a great round to watch. Fun.”
Captain Antoine Delon, France: “Every day is a new tournament. Today we have done a good tournament but tomorrow is going to be a new tournament on a new course, which is tricky. We have to be defensive.”
Christoph Bleier, Austria: “It was a really good day for me. I hit the ball well except for a couple of holes where I hit it into the trees, but I putted really well, which helped my score.”
Michael Thorbjornsen, USA: “Normally we are used to three-day events at amateur events and college events. Having that extra day helps. We are definitely not out of it. I feel like for all of us score wise, it was not too bad, but I feel like we can all play a lot better.”
Tom Vaillant, France: “It’s a great start. Playing under par on this course is great. I wanted to start well to show my teammates they can count on me, and they can do whatever they want. I tried to play the best I can and do my job like I do very week.”
- Japan’s 14-under 130 broke the record for low first-round score of 131 that was previously held by the USA in 2012.
- Taiga Semikawa of Japan shot an outward nine of 6-under 30 and finished at 9-under 63, which ties Jason Dawes of Australia at Le Golf National in 1994 for the low individual round in the history of the Eisenhower Trophy.
- In nearly ideal scoring conditions, 26 teams finished under par.
- A total of 28 players from the 2018 WATC are playing in the 2022 Eisenhower Trophy. Cayman Islands has two players from 2018 and Qatar has the same three – Saleh Ali Al Kaabi, Jaham Al Kuwari and Ali Al Shahrni.
- The last time the WATC was in France at Le Golf National and La Boulie in 1994 the USA team of Tiger Woods, Allen Doyle, Todd Demsey and John Harris won gold. Doyle, who won two U.S. Senior Open titles as well as one Senior PGA and one Senior Players for four PGA Tour Champions majors, was 46 years old when he was the low scorer in France at 277.
- Puerto Rico’s captain Wilfredo Morales played in the 1994 Eisenhower Trophy.
- Bermuda’s Jarryd Dillas is playing for the ninth time, most of any player in the field.
Round 2 begins Thursday at 8 a.m. with a two-tee start on both courses.