Lukas Michel. Picture: USGA/Chris Keane

Michel earns place in majors with win

Australian Lukas Michel will play in the 2020 Masters and US Open.

Michel, 25, pulled off another remarkable comeback to become the first international winner of the United States Mid-Amateur Championship at the Colorado Golf Club.

A member at Metropolitan Golf Club and a key component of the past three triumphant Victorian Interstate Series teams, Michel toppled Mississippi’s Joseph Deraney in a pulsating final.

The 2&1 victory in the 36-hole decider on the rock-hard course south of Denver punched the Aussie’s ticket to two major 2020 championships.

“Unbelievable … almost too good to be true,” he said when asked how the title sounded.

“I guess it will sink in in the coming hours or days. But, yeah, I mean, I’m looking forward to what comes with it in the future for my golf.”

Remarkably, Michel became the second Australian to win a USGA event in 2019, after fellow Melburnian Gabi Ruffels claimed the US Women’s Amateur crown in August.

Another Victorian, Sue Wooster, was also runner-up in the recent US Senior Women’s Amateur.

Michel’s victory earned him an invitation to play Augusta National in April’s Masters, and also a berth in the US Open at famous Winged Foot in New York, the site of compatriot Geoff Ogilvy’s 2006 major triumph.

“I wore a Winged Foot sweater for the first nine holes today. Played there last year. Just a casual round with a member … so I guess I’ve got an early look at the course there,” Michel said.

“(But it’s) unbelievable. I mean, many, many golfers, the best in the world, don’t get the opportunity to play a major, let alone the US Open.

“And as a kid growing up in Australia, watching the Masters final round on a Monday morning is pretty much the best morning of the year.

“Yeah, can’t wait.”

Five birdies in his final 11 holes enabled Michel to close out victory on the 35th green with what turned into an awkward par.

He and Deraney hit the green on the long par-three, with Michel to putt first. A solid, curling lag putt finished about three feet from the cup, narrowly outside what might have been “gimme” range.

Deraney’s birdie putt to win the hole and extend the match slipped narrowly by and, when he took off his hat in frustration, it was initially thought by observers to be a sign of concession to Michel.

“With the length of it (my second putt), I was like really confused,” Michel said.

“That putt is not a conceded putt. But he came up, shook my hand, and I think he said, ‘Sorry, that’s not good, I thought it was shorter’, or something like that.

“I was like, ‘OK’. (I was) not sure what was going on with that. I just had to reset and still holed the putt.”

A day earlier, Michel had won the final three holes of his semi-final to beat previous champion Stewart Hagestad 2-up and taken 20 holes to win his quarter-final.

He’d been 2-down through 10 holes in his Round of 32 match and also trailed early in his Round of 64 match.

Michel cited great putting as his chief weapon throughout the week, helping his rallies.

“Putting is the last thing you do on a hole, so when you’re having a good putting day it’s obviously going to look like you’re doing everything you can to get back in the hole, which is, I guess, what I did,” he said.

“It wasn’t my best ball-striking day. It was mediocre. Joe hit the ball way better than me. But when you’re putting good it always looks like you’re sort of coming from behind and making it happen”.

– Golf Australia

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