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Alex Fitzpatrick leads Jones Cup with opening 64 as many others try to make a Walker Cup case

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Expect Walker Cup selectors to be eyeing the Jones Cup, this week’s major amateur event at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Georgia, quite closely. That goes for the Great Britain & Ireland team just as much as for the U.S. team and on Friday, a GB&I player stole the show.

Alex Fitzpatrick, a Wake Forest junior from Sheffield, England, started on the back nine with birdies at Nos. 11 and 12 at Ocean Forest and never let up. After five back-nine birdies, he added three more on the front for a tournament-record 8-under 64.

Interestingly, it didn’t give him much space at the top of the leaderboard. Five other men dove below 70 in the first round, including Georgia fifth-year senior Spencer Ralston, who is close on Fitzpatrick’s heels with a 7-under 65.

Scores: Jones Cup

Fitzpatrick already has been named to the R&A’s Walker Cup practice squad. He was part of the 2019 GB&I Walker Cup team that competed at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England two years ago. Fitzpatrick provided some stability for his side that week, going out as the lead man in every session. He played to a 2-2-0 record.

Tee times were moved up at Ocean Forest on Friday in anticipation of inclement weather moving through in the afternoon, and several players used the opportunity to score.

A year ago, Fitzpatrick, who is ranked No. 31 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, finished 31st at the Jones Cup. This week, he is coming off a fourth-play finish across the country at the Arizona Intercollegiate with his Wake Forest team.

Plenty of U.S. Walker Cup hopefuls are in the field, too. Put Ralston, winner of the 2019 Players Amateur and quarterfinalist at the 2019 U.S. Amateur, on that list.

A pair of twins, Maxwell Ford and David Ford of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, represent the junior contingent high up on the leaderboard. Maxwell Ford fired a 5-under 67 for solo third. His brother David, ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings, sits in solo sixth at 3 under.

William Holcomb V, a fifth-year senior at Sam Houston State, has made no bones about his mission this week: He wants to play on this year’s Walker Cup team. Holcomb got hot early, making birdie on his first three holes to shoot to the top of the leaderboard. Another birdie followed at No. 6, but Holcomb had some missteps, too – bogeys at Nos. 7 and 11, and a double-bogey at No. 17.

Holcomb finished with a 2-under 70, good for a share of seventh with Ford Clegg, Davis Thompson and Cole Hammer.

Of note concerning the latter two in that group: Hammer is coming off a win in December at the South Beach International Amateur and Thompson is defending champion this week. Thompson is also No. 2 in the WAGR and, if he can hold that position through this week’s event, would secure an automatic selection to the U.S. Walker Cup team next week.

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/02/05/jones-cup-walker-cup-alex-fitzpatrick-leads/

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