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Chung birdies 18, tops Langley at U.S. Am



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UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – His ball lying perilously above a bunker, his opponent eyeing a putt for eagle on the 18th, his spot in the U.S. Amateur semifinals becoming less secure, David Chung wasn’t overwhelmed by the moment. Not with the way he’s playing these days.

“I just thought it was more fun,” Chung said Friday. “It added a little drama.”

Even if it was short-lived.

From a tricky lie short of the 18th green, Chung pitched onto the back shelf and made a slippery 8-foot putt for birdie, closing out reigning NCAA champ Scott Langley, 1 up, on a postcard day at Chambers Bay. 

Arguably the hottest player in amateur golf, after wins earlier this summer at the Porter Cup and Western Amateur, Chung, 20, will take on his toughest challenge of the week in Saturday’s semifinals – defending champion Byeong-Hun An.

“He’s a good match-play player,” said Chung, a junior at Stanford, “but I feel like I’m pretty solid myself. I’ve just stuck to my gameplan.”

Even when a certain victory seemed to be slipping away.

Chung was 2 up with two to play, with Langley, a senior at Illinois, facing a must-make 30-foot birdie putt on the back of the 17th green. But Langley sent a jolt through the gallery by sinking the putt – the first one he’d made outside 10 feet all match.

Knowing he needed at least a birdie on the par-5 18th, Langley took an aggressive line off the tee, bombing his drive down the left side of the fairway, dangerously close to a fairway bunker. From there he ripped a 3-wood onto the green, pumping his fist when he saw the ball land safely on the putting surface, some 40 feet from the cup.

Then it was Chung’s turn.

“I knew what I had to do,” he said. “I had to get up there and make birdie.”

From 68 yards away, and after laying up in a difficult spot – with the fescue grass running away from him, on the downslope on the edge of a bunker, the ball slightly below his feet – Chung lofted a shot onto a shelf on the back-right part of the green, using a ridge to bring the ball back within 10 feet.

“He’s a great wedge player,” Langley said, “and I expected him to make birdie.”

So Langley had to make a run at his eagle putt, but the ball burned the edge of the cup and trickled past. Chung’s birdie putt spun around the hole and dropped, and he raised his long Odyssey 2-ball putter to salute the crowd gathered around the 18th green.

It was a heartbreaking loss for Langley, who was vying to become the fifth player to win a collegiate title and U.S. Amateur in the same calendar year. Langley won the individual title at the NCAA Championship in June.

“I have no regrets, and I played really well,” Langley said. “I’m happy with the way I played, how I hung in there. David just played a little bit better.”

And now Chung is one match from playing for the U.S. Amateur – a title that would give him the best amateur resume in the country.

“I think you have to stay grounded,” he said. “It’s nice to think about how great Sunday would be if you get there, but you just have to stay in the moment.”

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