UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – First David Chung ousted the NCAA individual champion. Then he sent the defending U.S. Amateur champion packing.
Next on Chung’s agenda: 36 holes with the top amateur player in the world.
The Stanford junior survived an early run of birdies and eagles from 2009 amateur champ Byeong-Hun An, rallying on the back nine for a 1 up victory over An on Saturday in the semifinals of the 110th championship.
His reward for reaching Sunday’s 36-hole final – other than a trip to next year’s U.S. Open and an invitation to the Masters – is a match with Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein, the top ranked amateur in the world.
Uihlein beat 18-year-old Patrick Cantlay 4 and 3.
“Peter and I have played since we were 10 years old,” Chung recalled. “I expect him to play well and got preparation from (An) on seeing stellar golf. So I think I’m pretty prepared for anything.”
While Uihlein might be the top ranked amateur, according to the latest rankings from the Royal & Ancient, their might not be a hotter amateur player than Chung. In the last month, Chung captured the Porter Cup and the Western Amateur, two of the more prestigious amateur events in the United States. Now he gets a chance at the capper before heading back to school.
An was attempting to become the first back-to-back champion since Tiger Woods won three straight titles between 1994 and 1996. An was already the first defending champ to reach the semifinals since Woods.
Still, the 18-year-old who a year ago became the youngest champion in history, couldn’t hide his disappointment after his putt on the 18th came up short. An dropped his putter, then flung his ball skipping across the green.
“On the back nine I couldn’t get anything going straight or in the hole and he took the chances when he needed,” An said. “We had a great match. We both played very well. It’s very disappointing right now.”
Chung was lucky to still be in his match with An after the first few holes. To par, An was 6 under through his first six holes, including an eagle on the par 4 fifth that was using a second, short green Saturday that made the hole drivable.
But Chung found himself just 3 down, a deficit he carried to the back nine after An won the ninth hole.
“I don’t think anybody could have beaten him in the first six holes today,” Chung said. “But I knew I would have my chances and I’d have to take advantage of them going into the back nine.”
Chung’s rally began with victories at the 10th and 12th holes, both times capitalizing when An’s tee shots found the long fescue surrounding the fairways at Chambers Bay. Chung then stayed in the match with saves at Nos. 13 and 14 to halve the hole.
On the 13th, Chung rolled in a 15 footer, then flopped a wedge to 2 feet for a par on the 14th. Chung went ahead with a birdie at the 16th, but gave back the lead when his tee shot on No. 17 found a bunker.
On the final hole, Chung reached the green on the 485-yard par 4 in two, while An flared his second shot into a greenside bunker and found his ball tucked against a grass mound. He blasted out to 40 feet but three-putted.
“If he goes 2 up with five holes to go that is pretty tough to come back from,” Chung said of his putt on the 13th. “So that was really key … probably the turning point in the match.”
Uihlein had a much more relaxed time against Cantlay than a day earlier when he was taken to the final hole by Oklahoma State teammate Morgan Hoffmann.
Uihlein never trailed against Cantlay and won three of the final five holes, finishing the match with a par at the 246-yard par 3 15th.
“I was filling up the cup early. I literally just made a couple more putts than him to start off and I think that was the difference,” Uihlein said.
Uihlein will get a chance at a little revenge against Chung in the final. They’ve known each other since they were young junior players, meeting in the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur and again at this year’s NCAA championships. Both times, Chung came out ahead.
“I have a good relationship with David. I like David a lot,” Uihlein said. “I think tomorrow will be a lot of fun.”