2022 U.S. Amateur: Confident superstar Sam Bennett prevails in 36-hole finale over Ben Carr – CBS Sports

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In the middle of the 122nd U.S. Amateur, Texas A&M superstar, and No. 3 amateur in the world, Sam Bennett gave the quote of the week. Then he went out over the last few days and completely backed it up.
Bennett defeated Ben Carr 1 up in the 36-hole finale after building a big lead in the morning 18 and narrowly sustaining it in the afternoon in a wacky — but ultimately satisfying — ending for the newest USGA champion. Both players will likely receive Masters invites and both are in the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club, but only Bennett gets the Havemeyer trophy for the next 12 months.
But first, let’s back up to how Bennett found himself in that position on Sunday to begin with. After shooting 71-73 in the stroke play portion of the week, Bennett finished T30 to move on to match play, where he faced an unbelievable string of players which he dispatched of consecutively.
First, Bennett needed seven birdies and 19 holes to oust Nick Gabrelcik, who is the No. 13-ranked amateur in the world. After that came a blowout 6-and-5 win over the 27th-ranked amateur in the world, Brazilian Fred Biondi. Then a 4-and-2 win over Spaniard David Puig, who has played in the LIV Golf League and is ranked No. 10 in the world. He took out former Masters low amateur Stewart Hagestad (No. 9 in the WAGR) in the quarterfinals — and then came the quote.
“They’re great players, but I’m a better player,” said Bennett after beating three-time Walker Cupper Hagestad. “No. 3 in the rankings, and I feel like I’m the best player. I’m the dog in this race. I’ve been playing the best golf leading up to here. Yesterday I was 10 under through 29. Today I didn’t quite have it, but I got the job done. I’ve got Menante tomorrow. Obviously, he’s playing good, another tough opponent. I think it’s going to be a good match.”
Bennett touched off his week with a club twirl for the ages against Dylan Menante in the semifinals — where he won 1 up — before the final against Carr, where Bennett never trailed. It even looked like he was going to Saki Baba Carr at one point (a reference to last week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur, where Saki Baba won 11 and 9 over Monet Chun). But Carr fought back with multiple birdies from off the green in the afternoon match, and then the ending juiced the entire event.
“It was what you dream of as a kid,” Carr told NBC of the 36-hole day and the wild last hour. “It didn’t work out the way I wanted, but I couldn’t have lost to a better competitor.”
On the par-5 14th, Carr had an opening when Bennett hooked his second out of bounds, but then Carr did the very same thing on his approach and they split the hole with bogeys. A hole later, Bennett missed a 3-footer to kick away another hole to take just a 2 up lead to the final four holes. Incredibly, Carr won the 17th as well to go to No. 18 down just a hole. After not being tied or leading for a single hole in the afternoon, it appeared as if Carr might catch Bennett at the last.
“I got off to a hot start, and after lunch he started dropping in putts and chips from everywhere,” Bennett told NBC after the match. “It made me nervous. I got pretty tight when that started happening. [Caddie and A&M golf coach Brian Kortan] was able to calm me down and … stick to what we’ve been doing all week.”
Carr blocked his drive on the final hole, and was semi-stymied behind a tree with very little hope for birdie. Bennett followed with another monster twirl and the drama was minuscule over the final 10 minutes. Bennett won the 122nd U.S. Amateur with a tap-in par.
Don’t wait to do something! Sam Bennett wins the 122nd #USAmateur 🏆@AggieMensGolf | @sammy_golf24243 pic.twitter.com/rwYbO6pf3V
“It’s a dream come true,” he told NBC. “It doesn’t even feel real, looking at all these people on the 18th green at Ridgewood. I don’t even know what I’m saying right now. It means a lot to hold that trophy. I’m sure tonight I’ll take a peek at all the names, but I know Tiger Woods’ name is on that three times, and to put my name beside his is something pretty special.”
Bennett is no fluke winner. He’s one of the three best amateurs in the world, was the 2022 SEC Player of the Year and has played in four professional events as an amateur. He made the cut at this year’s U.S. Open, finishing T49, ahead of players like Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau and Viktor Hovland.
The week from Bennett — from his quote to his twirls to the way he carried himself as the alpha of Ridgewood Country Club — give great insight into how top golfers, both amateur and professional, must retain a comical level of self-belief to compete at the level of winning a U.S. Amateur. While that doesn’t always turn out great because of the reality that there can only be one champion at the end of the week, and anything short of that is considered failure by the public, it’s still a necessity, even if some are less vocal about it than Bennett was throughout.
It can be a separator, too. Bennett clearly never lost belief while you could almost see his opponent in the finals, Carr, slip in and out of it depending on the hole. And while it’s easy to dunk on players who put themselves out there — “I’m the dog in this race” — it’s much harder to call out your belief and then finish off one of the most grueling weeks in golf like Bennett did.
In the end, Bennett’s self-confidence won the week and the respect of his competitors. Because while anybody can grind and anybody can talk, it’s a rare player who can back up his confidence with the type of grind that wins U.S. Amateurs. Bennett was that player this week, and in the process he pulled off the hardest feat in sports: telling everybody you’re the best in the game and then going out and proving it.
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