2021 U.S. Walker Cup team begins to take shape with four of 10 spots decided

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It wasn’t the ending Davis Thompson was hoping for on Sunday at the Jones Cup Invitational. The 21-year-old University of Georgia senior held the lead on the back nine at Ocean Forest G.C. in Sea Island, Ga., as he attempted to defend his title at the prestigious amateur event, only to bogey two of his last three holes. That allowed Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg to swoop in and claim a one-shot victory when he birdied on the 18th hole, shooting a closing 72 and a two-under 214 total overall.

There was consolation, however, for Thompson in knowing that his performance would still come with a reward, namely a spot on this year’s U.S. Walker Cup team. The top three Americans in the World Amateur Golf Ranking after the event would earn automatic spots on the 10-man squad that will compete at Florida’s Seminole Golf Club in May. Thompson, the top-ranked American and No. 2-ranked golfer overall, did nothing to dimmish his status.

The updated WAGR standings don’t officially get published until Wednesday, but the results from the Jones Cup aren’t expected to impact the other two Americans who will receive automatic spots on Captain Nathaniel Crosby’s team. Ricky Castillo, a sophomore at Florida, and Pierceson Coody, a junior at Texas, were ranked Nos. 5 and 6 last week and are not expected to be passed by any other Americans when the new rankings come out Wednesday. Castillo did not play in the Jones Cup, and Coody finished T-28. Meanwhile, John Pak, ranked No. 8 in the WAGR and No. 1 in the PGA Tour University standings, also did not compete.

The American who helped his Walker Cup cause the most over the weekend was Cole Hammer. The University of Texas All-American and former top amateur in the world was ranked 22nd entering the Jones Cup before grabbing a share of second place on Sunday along with Thompson and Alex Fitzpatrick. Hammer will move up in the WAGR ranking that will be released Wednesday, and with his experience on the 2019 Walker Cup team he has made himself an attractive candidate for an at-large spot on the team.

The same goes with Pak, a senior at Florida State who also played for Crosby and the U.S. in 2019 and whose resume is bolstered by earning low-amateur honors at the U.S. Open last September. Other Americans ranked inside the top 20 in WAGR standings who are considered contenders for this year’s team include Garett Reband (10), Quade Cummins (12), Austin Eckroat (13) and Stewart Hagestad (14) and McClure Meissner (18).

A fourth spot on the 2021 roster is already accounted for as well as Tyler Strafaci earned his place by virtue of his U.S. Amateur victory at Bandon Dunes last August.

The remainder of the team could be finalized as early as the end of February.

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