Bryson DeChambeau has put himself in position to join elite company.
Some of the greatest to tee it up, in fact.
The former Clovis East High School star powered his way into the final of the U.S. Amateur, defeating Sean Crocker 4 and 3 on Saturday at Olympia Fields Country Club outside Chicago while moving one victory from becoming the fifth player to win the tournament and the NCAA individual title in the same year.
DeChambeau, a senior at SMU, will face Derek Bard of New Hartford, N.Y., in the 36-hole final at 6:30 a.m. Sunday.
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Jack Nicklaus (1961), Phil Mickelson (1990), Tiger Woods (1996) and Ryan Moore (2004) are the only players to win the NCAA individual and U.S. Amateur championships in the same year.
To be in that group of players would be incredible. Still got to go out and do some work tomorrow.
Bryson DeChambeau on his chances of joining names such as Nicklaus, Woods and Mickelson as NCAA and U.S. Amateur champions
“I haven’t even thought about that yet,” DeChambeau said. “I can’t remember exactly – I know Phil Mickelson has done it. Tiger Woods I think did it – Jack (Nicklaus) and Tiger, yeah. To be in that group of players would be incredible. Still got to go out and do some work tomorrow.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge and hopefully rise to the challenge and do my best.”
DeChambeau got off to a strong start against Crocker, going 2 up after winning Nos. 2 and 4. Crocker tied the match with wins on holes 5 and 6 before DeChambeau regained a 2-up lead when he shot par, compared with bogeys for Crocker, on Nos. 9 and 10.
DeChambeau, 21, essentially put away Crocker, a 20-year-old USC sophomore from Westlake Village, by winning Nos. 12-14.
When they each shot par at 15, the match was over, giving DeChambeau his first final berth in three trips to the Amateur.
“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and I’m finally able to do it,” DeChambeau said. “To be here with the best players in the world that have played here and won here is pretty incredible: Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and a couple others, it’s incredible.”
18 under DeChambeau’s equivalent score through five match-play rounds
DeChambeau’s path to the final includes wins over Paul Dunne, who contended for this year’s British Open title, in the quarterfinals, NCAA Player of the Year Maverick McNealy of Stanford and South Carolina All-American Matt NeSmith. DeChambeau is 18 under through five match-play rounds.
Next up is Bard, the 2014 U.S. Collegiate champ who beat Japan’s Kenta Konishi 3 and 2 in the other semifinal.
Bard, a 20-year-old junior at Virginia, won the 12th, 14th and 15th holes and finished off Konishi with a par for a halve on the par-4 16th.
“I’m the underdog,” Bard said. “Bryson has had an incredible career so far. It’s going to be tough. It really is. I told my dad, ‘I’m going to have to play my best golf to have a chance.’”
If DeChambeau is the favorite, he’s not concerned about the role.
“People always give players names, whether it’s an underdog or leader of the pack or whatever,” DeChambeau said. “Again, it’s 36 holes; anything could happen. And like I’ve said before many times, I’m just going to go do my best, and I think my best will be good enough tomorrow.”
The finalists receive exemptions into the 2016 U.S. Open, three years of exemptions into the U.S. Amateur and a likely invitation to the 2016 Masters. The champion also receives an exemption into the 2016 British Open.
U.S. Amateur final
BRYSON DECHAMBEAU VS. DEREK BARD
- Sunday: 36 holes, beginning at 6:30 a.m. at Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago
- TV: KMPH-Channel 26.1 has coverage beginning at noon