Match play — once Tiger turned pro, at least — is susceptible to what often is described as vagaries, which, in golf circles, means only that anything can happen. Nonetheless, a favorite has emerged in the U.S. Amateur heading into Saturday’s semifinals.
It is Doug Ghim, 21, a senior at Texas, who was a 2-and-1 winner over Connor Syme of Scotland at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., on Friday. Ghim has momentum that includes a victory this summer in the Pacific Coast Amateur. He is the highest-ranked player left in the field, No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. And on the experience front, he once reached the final of a USGA event, the U.S. Amateur Public Links in 2014.
His next opponent will be Theo Humphrey, who defeated Chun An Yu of Chinese Taipei, 1 up, on Friday. In the other semifinal match, Mark Lawrence Jr. will play Doc Redman. Lawrence defeated Dawson Armstrong, 3 and 2, while Redman beat Travis Smyth of Australia, 1 up.
Neither Ghim nor Syme were especially sharp in their match. Ghim made six bogeys, Syme four and one double bogey. Smyth had never trailed in his previous three matches, but fell behind at the third hole and never led. Ghim won the par-3 16th hole with a bogey to go 2 up, then finished it off with a par at 17.
“The wind definitely showed up today,” Ghim said, attempting to explain the quality of play. “It was a little stronger than yesterday. And whenever you’re in the quarters or the semis or the finals, its gets a little bit more nervy. I think both Connor and I had tremendous respect for each other. It just made it that much more difficult because we knew how good the other side was. Fortunately it ended up in my favor.”
Humphrey, 21, a senior at Vanderbilt, is No. 42 in the World Amateur Ranking and was the fourth seed entering match play. He is playing in his fourth U.S. Amateur.
“I’ve played many times with Doug over the past five, six years,” Humphrey said. “Doug’s an excellent player, so it should be a great challenge. I know I’ll have to play my best tomorrow.”
Lawrence, 21, who plays college golf for Virginia Tech, has to qualify as the long shot among the four semifinalists. He is No. 386 in the World Amateur Ranking, though earlier this year he won the Virginia State Amateur, a tournament his father won in 1980.
His semifinal opponent, Doc Redman, 19, is a Clemson sophomore who is No. 70 in the World Amateur Ranking. He has had a strong summer, finishing second in the Western Amateur and tied for sixth in the Notheast Amateur.