ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Jordan Niebrugge had an outside shot at the silver claret jug. He was more than happy to leave St. Andrews with a silver medal.
At a British Open where amateurs shared the stage, Niebrugge pulled within three shots of the lead on the back nine until he could no longer keep up. He closed with a 2-under 70 to tie for sixth.
Not only was he low amateur, he became the first amateur since Chris Woods at Royal Birkdale in 2008 to finish in the top 10. Along with getting the silver medal, the top 10 means he gets to return to the Open next year at Royal Troon.
”The top accomplishment I’ve had so far,” said Niebrugge, a senior-to-be at Oklahoma State. ”Just the silver medal in a major championship, especially at St. Andrews. It’s definitely a dream come true.”
Paul Dunne of Ireland, the first amateur in 88 years to be a leader going into the final round of the Open, wasn’t so fortunate. He was gobbled up by nerves on the first two holes, hitting short of the Swilcan burn on his approach, and hitting his tee shot on the second hole so far right that it wound up on the putting green by the practice range.
Dunne started bogey-bogey and closed with a 78.
Oliver Schniederjans of Georgia Tech, in his final tournament as a pro, got within two shots of the lead about two hours before the leaders started the final round. He shot a 67 and tied for 12th. Schniederjans is turning pro and will play the Canadian Open later this week.
Niebrugge still has another year left as an amateur because he wants to finish his degree at Oklahoma State. His performance this week should make him a shoo-in to return to links golf in September when the Walker Cup is played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
”Just try and do everything I can to play my way onto the team,” Niebrugge said. ”I’ve got a couple more events this summer left, and we’ll see how it goes.”
On this day, he was doing everything he could to compete for a major championship.
Playing alongside Sergio Garcia, he kept pace with the Spaniard with three birdies through six holes, and when Niebrugge made birdie on the par-5 14th, he was at 13 under par. But he dropped a shot on the 15th, and missed an 8-foot par putt on the tough 17th.
”I knew the guys behind me were getting it going,” he said. ”I knew Zach Johnson played really well out in front of me, so I knew I had to get a couple more birdies, but those last four holes or so were playing really tough. I just needed to get fairways and greens and just give myself opportunities.”