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Michigan State Spartans’ golfer James Piot uses clutch putts to win US Amateur

By DOUG FERGUSON

AP Golf Writer

OAKMONT, Pa. — Facing his largest deficit of the week and running out of time, James Piot won four straight holes to start the back nine at Oakmont and went on to win the U.S. Amateur on Sunday over Austin Greaser.

Piot closed out his 2-and-1 victory by going bunker-to-bunker on the reachable par-4 17th hole and saving par with a 20-foot putt. Greaser, who was 3 up at the turn, had an 8-foot birdie putt to extend the match. It spun off the left lip.

Piot, a 22-year-old senior at Michigan State, was mobbed by friends and teammates in their Spartans gear off the green and before long he was holding the gold trophy.

Groomed on a Michigan public course — Fox Hills Golf and Banquet Center — he learned to battle by spending all day at the course with friends making up money games to play.

When he arrived at MSU and his coach encouraged Piot to strive to be All-Big Ten, Piot thought that was setting the bar too low. He wanted to be All-American.

And now he’s a U.S. Amateur champion.

“I still don’t believe I’m holding this trophy right now,” Piot said. “Internally, I thought I had the ability to do it. To actually do it is the greatest thing ever.”

It was a tough loss for Greaser, a junior at North Carolina. Trailing 1 down after the morning 18 holes, he won three of the opening four holes in the afternoon and made a pair of tough par putts to halve holes and stay in front.

With a par on the ninth, he went 3 up and looked tough to beat.

Piot didn’t bend and set a target of 4 under on the back nine — a tall order at Oakmont with greens that had been triple cut — and almost pulled it off. He had three birdies on his card without dropping a shot.

He started his rally with an approach into 3 feet on No. 10, the first hole he won since the 18th in the morning. Greaser three-putted from 15 feet on the next hole.