Say it ain’t so: Song vs. Salas

Lizette Salas reacts to making a putt during match play at the 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship.

Lizette Salas reacts to making a putt during match play at the 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship.

ST. LOUIS – Whatever way you cut it, either Jennifer Song or Lizette Salas will be eliminated from the U.S. Women’s Amateur on Thursday.

The USC teammates – and good friends – made that statement an undeniable fact when both came away with victories in Wednesday’s Round of 64 and assured themselves of a match against each other in the Round of 32.

“I wish I could’ve played her (Song) in the final,” Salas said after her 3-and-1 win over Evan Jensen. “I know her game backwards and forwards and she knows my game backwards and forwards. It’s going to be interesting tomorrow.”

Song played LSU junior Megan McChrystal in the pairing directly behind Salas. They saw each other on the first tee and after Salas wished her teammate luck, Song shot back with “Yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Though the two are good friends, there will be no shortage of intensity and competitive fire when they face off against one another.

“I’m not the type of person that talks a lot when I’m playing, so I’m going to do what I usually do,” said Song, who downed McChrystal, 3 and 1.

Salas, however, said she can’t maintain an unwavering focus on the golf course. Despite the pressure and expectations, Salas said she makes a conscious effort to enjoy the experience.

“If I get too focused, I doubt myself,” she said. “I just try to enjoy it and have fun out there. I’m just glad I’m out here.”

Different styles, different paths to Thursday’s match.

Song outlasted 2006 Women’s Am champ Kimberly Kim, 7 and 6, in the final of the U.S. Women’s Public Links. She finished her freshman year as college golf’s top-ranked player after losing the NCAA Women’s Championship on the 72nd hole.

Salas, a soon-to-be junior for the Trojans, was nearly as proficient as Song this season. She finished the year No. 4 in Golfweek’s college rankings. She ran up against Auburn stand-out Cydney Clanton in the round of 16 at the Publinx and lost, 1 down.

The rigors of a college season followed by the Publinx grind put constant strain on Salas, and she was diagnosed with a lower back sprain. She was forced to back out of a Women’s Open qualifier and only recently finished rehab.

Salas, however, was able to make her Women’s Am qualifer at Annandale Golf Club in Pasadena, Calif. She torched the course with a 63, taking medalist honors by four shots.

“I was just shooting darts that day,” said Salas.

Song can easily relate. Golfweek’s college player of the year built a 4-up lead over McChrystal through six holes and was dormie when she approached the 15th tee.

All the while, Salas was battling with Jensen just a group ahead – not that Song had any idea.

“I usually don’t even look at my own scoreboard,” said Song.

The two credited their caddies with the recent success they’ve enjoyed. Song has drawn strength and composure from her father, Museok, who has looped for her throughout the summer.

Salas has drawn from the knowledge and experience of a past USGA champion. On her bag this week is Greg Puga, a family friend and the 2000 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion.

Someone will go home tomorrow and it will be at a good friend’s hands. But Song summed up the match before it even starts: “We’re going to have a lot of fun out there.”

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