An takes lead after morning 18 despite ragged play

August 30, 2009

__TULSA, OKLA.--I'm not sure just how time__Ben Martin and Byeong-Hun An will actually spend  eating lunch after completing the morning 18 holes of the U.S. Amateur's championship match. My guess is both will make it quick so as to log some extra time on the range before resuming play at 1 p.m. CDT, An holding a 3-up lead.

Suffice it to say, Southern Hills CC got the best of both finalists through the first half of play Sunday. The two made a combined four birdies offset by 10 bogeys and three double bogeys in  breezy but comfortable playing conditions.

An, a 17-year-old native of South Korea trying to become the youngest winner of the Amateur title, finished with the equivalent of five over par score (including normal concessions); Martin, a fifth-year senior at Clemson, was seven over. Martin's luck was so off that even when he hit a good shot, it turned out bad. On the par-3 14th, Martin's tee ball struck the flag stick, only to bounce into the front right bunker.

The morning portion of the match proved to be a see-saw affair as only four of the 18 holes were halved (one of them, the par-3 197-yard sixth, was split with matching double bogeys).

Still, while both players held the lead at one point, neither extended it beyond a 1-up advantage until An made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th and got up and down for par from behind the green on the 17th to stretch to 3 up.

An hit 11 fairways but just nine greens while Martin hit only five fairways and nine greens.

Aside from what's at stake for the players themselves, there are other golfers who are watching the outcome closely. If Martin wins, he will secure one of the final two spots on the U.S. Walker Cup team that will play in two weeks at Merion GC--leaving just one spot for a handful of hopefuls that include Northeast Amateur champion Dan Woltman, collegiate All-American__Mike Van Sickle__,Peter Uihlein, who advanced to the quarterfinals of the Amateur this week, and__Tim Jackson__, medalist at Southern Hills. Should An win, however, both spots for the team will available for the USGA International Team Selection Committee to choose.

USGA course set-up guru Mike Davis has famously brought the drivable par 4 into fashion at the U.S. Open, so should it be any surprise that he's had fun with the short par-4 17th here at Southern Hills?

For the morning 18 of the championship match, Davis placed the tee 290 yards from the hole, enticing Martin to go for it with a driver after An had laid up in the fairway with an iron. Martin's ball hit the green but bounded down the shaved back slope. He then proceeded to flub his second shot en route to a bogey 5. An's approach shot from the fairway also bounced over the green but he managed to get up and down for par to extend his lead to 3 up.

For the afternoon 18, if breeze continues to blow from the north (downwind) Davis said he may push the tees back to the 306-yard teeing ground.