Defending champ An starts hot at U.S. Am

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UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Last year, Byeong-Hun An of Seoul, South Korea, became the youngest U.S Amateur champion when he won the title at 17 at Southern Hills Country Club.

Now he’s trying to defend that title, something that hasn’t been done in this championship since Tiger Woods won three in a row from 1994-96.

And, even though An, who will be a freshman at California, said he had not been playing well coming into the week, he got off to a solid start Monday in the opening round of stroke play qualifying.

Playing the par-72 Home Course, considered the easier of the two venues used for stroke play, An shot a 2-under 70, which he will carry over into Tuesday’s second round at the longer and more demanding Chambers Bay course, venue for the entire match play competition.

“I definitely wasn’t playing all that well (coming in) and I’m still not playing all that well,” An said. “But today, my putting was working. Two weeks before I was not happy with my game. I had no confidence coming into today.”

An said the key to his opening round was his putter. He said overall he made quite a few putts, which he’s certainly going to have to do at Chambers Bay.

“I think it (Chambers) is a very tough course compared to Home Course,” An said. “I know the cut will be pretty high.”

An said his experience and success from last year is a big bonus.

“I know that anything can happen, like last year,” he said. “I’m just trying to make the cut and get to match play.

“Winning last year definitely makes me want to win it again,” An said. “I know what its like to win, to reap the rewards you get after winning it. That really gets me motivated.”

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