#1 and #2 Seeds Fall in First Round at Council Fire
Knowing that he was about to play off for the 16th and final spot in the match play portion of the Chattanooga TPC on Thursday, John Lambert made a grim prediction for his Friday match against No. 1 seed Thomas Smith.
Told that only one No. 1 seed since 2001 had advanced past the first round, Lambert just shook his head. “If I’m the 16th seed, that streak will end tomorrow,” he said.
Lambert is obviously a better golfer than he is a prognosticator. Tossing six birdies at Smith, the former UTC player and winner of the 2006 Tennessee Amateur who shot 65 to earn his No. 1 qualifying spot, Lambert took a 2 and 1 decision to keep the first-round upsets going in this tournament.
And if that weren’t enough, Pat Corey, the 15th seed, upended No. 2 seed Tom Schreiner, if you want to call a match won by a three-time TPC champion an upset.
Among Friday’s other matches, a pair of current UTC players won and will face one another on Saturday. No. 3 seed Tripp Harris outlasted Walt Moffitt in 19 holes, and No. 6 Derek Rende needed just 12 holes to dispatch Matt Mathis, 7 and 6.
Imagine how Mathis must have felt after shooting a solid even-par 36 on the front—only to find himself five down.
It could have been a lot worse. Rende made birdies at No. 1 and 2 to take a quick 2-up lead, then won No. 4 with a par to go 3-up. Birdies at Nos. 5, 7 and 8 increased Rende’s lead to 6-up, but Mathis stopped the bleeding by winning No. 9 with a birdie. Rende’s 31 on the front nine could have been even better; he missed birdie putts of under six feet on three other holes.
Rende keep the pressure on Mathis on the back nine, winning No. 10 with a par and No. 11 with an eagle 3. When both players birdied No. 12, the match was over.
Lambert piled up a few birdies of his own in a wild match that featured no halves in the first 10 holes. After trading wins in the first five holes, Lambert made his move, winning the par-5 sixth with a par to go 2 up. He went 3-up with a par at No. 7, and after Smith won No. 8, Lambert made birdies at No. 9 and 10 to go 4-up.
“I’m usually nervous before a tournament,” Lambert said. “But today, playing the No. 1 seed, who shot 65 in qualifying, I just figured I had nothing to lose. I just wanted to go out there and have fun.”
Lambert maintained his 4-up lead until Smith won the par-5 13th, and he could have closed out Smith when he drained a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 15. But Smith rolled in a 10-footer for birdie to extend the match, then put some pressure on Lambert by winning No. 16.
Both players missed the green at the par-3 17th, but when Lambert’s pitch from 20 feet off the green rolled to tap-in range and Smith couldn’t chip in for birdie, the match was over.
“That was in my top 10 chips of all time, and I’ve only got seven in the top 10,” Lambert said. “That’s how bad a chipper I am.”
Lambert gave up a lot of yardage off the tee to Smith, and that will be the case again on Saturday, when his opponent will be Lee University player Caleb Roberson, who defeated teammate Josh Lawson, 3 and 2 on Friday.
Lambert got a good look at Roberson because they were in the same foursome on Friday. “He hit it past me 50 yards all day long,” Lambert said.
In match play, though, sometimes a short hitter can have an advantage by hitting his approach shot first.
“I’m not long off the tee,” Lambert said. “But I can get an iron on the ball, I know I can get it on the green. And right now I’m hitting my short irons close to the hole.”
Indeed, all Lambert’s birdies came at par-4 holes. He hit approaches to two feet at No. 1, eight inches at No. 3, 12 feet at No. 5 and four feet at No. 9. He made two long birdie putts, including a 25-footer from three feet off the green at 10, “for which I promptly apologized,” Lambert said.
No. 16 John Lambert def. No. 1 Thomas Smith, 2 and 1.
No. 15 Pat Corey def. No. 2 Tom Schreiner, 3 and 2.
No. 3 Tripp Harris def. No. 14 Walt Moffitt, 19 holes.
No. 4 Sam Bedwell def. No. 13 Ryan Hulton, 1 up.
No. 12 Mitch Hufstetler def. No. 5 Mike Feher, 2 and 1.
No. 6 Derek Rende def. No. 11 Matt Mathis, 7 and 6.
No. 7 Tom Baird def. No. 10 Matt Hadden, 2 and 1.
No. 9 Caleb Roberson def. No. 8 Josh Lawson, 3 and 2.
1:30 p.m.-Lambert vs. Roberson.
1:40 p.m.-Bedwell vs. Hufstetler.
1:50 p.m.-Corey vs. Baird.
2:00 p.m.-Harris vs. Rende.