OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — Bryson DeChambeau has managed to reach the final match of the 115th U.S. Amateur Championship having trailed on just two holes during the entire tournament. What did the Southern Methodist University senior do immediately after going 1-down? He birdied the next hole. Both times.
During his round-of-16 matchup with fellow Californian Maverick McNealy of Stanford, DeChambeau was 1-down after the first and third hole of the match, while he made birdie to force the match back to all-square on holes 2 and 4. Otherwise? The Clovis, Calif. native has been either all-square or leading during all five of his matches thus far.
His championship match opponent on Sunday at Olympia Fields Country Club's North Course will be the tournament's comeback kid — University of Virginia junior Derek Bard. The New Hartford, N.Y. native has trailed during four of his five matches, with Saturday's semifinal bout with Kenta Konishi of Japan being the first time he didn't go down at any point. In fact, Bard, during his 3-and-2 defeat of Konishi, led during 15 of the 16 holes played.
RELATED: Quarterfinal recap from Friday
DeChambeau had to take down Pac-12 Freshman-of-the-Year Sean Crocker of Zimbabwe on Saturday morning. Crocker, the fist-pumping sophomore at USC, held close with DeChambeau until losing three straight holes in a stretch from 12 to 14 where DeChambeau made two of his four birdies of the day.
“My strengths are definitely my driving, hitting it in the fairway for the most part,” DeChambeau told the USGA. “And this week, I’ve been incredible with my putting. It’s the best I’ve ever putted in my life, and I’m excited to see what tomorrow holds.”
Both finalists have major victories in 2015 already under their belts, including DeChambeau at the beginning of June down in Florida at the NCAA Men's National Championship. He won the individual title for his Mustang team by a stroke over University of Washington graduating senior Cheng-Tsung Pan, while a flurry of other top talent trailed just two and three shots back, most notably Bard's round-of-16 opponent Hunter Stewart of Vanderbilt and DeChambeau's quarterfinal opponent Paul Dunne of UAB. Bard's victory came at the Sunnehanna Amateur, where he held off Georgia Southern golfer Scott Wolfes.
“I was talking to some of my friends and my dad earlier,” said Bard, of playing DeChambeau. “I'm going to have to play my best golf to have a chance tomorrow, because he's been playing very solid leading up to this point, and I'm just going to have to have one of those days where everything falls the right way from here.”
Sunday's 36-hole final will pin the two Americans from opposite sides of the country against one another. The two, for the moment, can bond over shared exemptions into next year's Masters Tournament and U.S. Open.