Paul Dunne went down fighting in the quarter-finals of the US Amateur Championship last night when he fell 3 and 2 to US Walker Cup star Bryson DeChambeau in a painstaking but still pulsating match at Olympia Fields.
The protagonists were put on the clock by officials or reminded of their pace of place several times on the front nine alone.
But it was waywardness rather than tardiness that cost the Greystones man dear at the Chicago venue’s storied North Course and had it not been for some incredible putting — he holed half a dozen crucial putts — DeChambeau might not have been forced to make six birdies in a classy performance.
While Dunne was disappointed he could hit just three of the 14 fairways and only seven of 16 greens, he paid tribute to the American, who is vying to become the fifth player to win the NCAA title and U.S. Amateur championship in the same year and the first since Ryan Moore in 2004. The others are Jack Nicklaus (1961), Phil Mickelson (1990) and Tiger Woods (1996).
“When I am driving it well it’s a big strength of mine but my swing just wasn’t there today and I didn’t hit it well enough to compete at this level,” Dunne said.
“I am proud I only made one bogey on a tough golf course but against a player as good as Bryson, he had his game today and I think I left mine in bed and it was always going to be difficult.
“The putter felt great in my hands today and I hit loads of good putts but I didn’t really have it from tee to green.”
Certain to be named in the Walker Cup side on Monday and planning to turn professional afterarwards, Dunne said: “I learned at the Open that when I am playing well, I am good enough to compete at any level. If I get a week where I am hitting my driver as well as I putted today, I think I will be okay.”
Asked what went wrong, Dunne said: “I don't know what it was. Just wasn't hitting it well today; all the other days where I hit it great I don't think it's a fundamental flaw in the golf swing or anything. Just everyone gets days where they just don't hit it well. Unfortunately mine was today. But yeah, I never gave up. I still kind of putted well.”
Dunne might have gained 20 lbs of muscle and 30 yards off the tee over the past year or two, but he was fatally wayward in his quarter-final showdown and not even a magical putter could remedy the situation.
“Only thing that was working,” Dunne said wryly of his putter. “I was happy with how I committed to all my shots, apart from a couple out there that didn't really go my way.
“My golf swing just wasn't there today. I don't know what it was. If I could have scraped few today's round, I need a long range session to figure it out. So yeah, a little disappointing.
“Happy to only make one bogey. The way I was playing, I wasn't hitting it well. So managed to keep myself in it for a long time. Just Bryson had his game today. Five-under par is hard to keep up with on a U.S. Open golf course.”
One down after nine, he battled hard on the back nine but even though he made up for his wayward driving with some superb putting, DeChambeau’s stellar play was too much.
Having played beautifully all week in his bid to become the first Irish semi-finalists since Joe Carr in 1961, the 22-year old Wicklow man wasn’t hitting fairways early in the day but he got inside the American’s head with some uncanny par-saving halves.
At the third, he holed an 18 footer down the hill for his four and looked on as DeChambeau missed a six footer for the win.
Then at the fifth, he was short sided left of the green but played a towering flop shot that finished 12 feet below the hole from where he wriggled home the putt to remain all square.
DeChambeau was not to be overshadowed, however, and after carving his tee shot into a lateral hazard at the par-five sixth, he managed to scuttle his second across the fairway into the left rough.
With overhanging branches preventing a high shot, he chased a low bullet from 220 yards to 45 feet and holed the right to left breaking birdie putt for a four.
Dunne had laid up but he missed from 10 feet for the half in birdie to go one down and then lost the par-three seventh
The Irish star had bunkered his tee shot and faced a 10 foot par putt but DeChambeau birdied from 18 feet to go two up.
Dunne then had to hit a wedge to four feet from the rough at the eighth to remain two down as the Californian holed an eight footer for his third birdie in a row.
But the former East of Ireland winner e earned some respite with a win in par at the ninth, where he holed a 12 footer as DeChambeau bunkered his approach off a perfect drive and hit an average putt from 15 feet.
The American, who plays with a set of irons that all have a 37.5 inch six-iron shafts marked with lofts rather than numbers, looked on as Dunne made a 25 footer for par at the 10th to remain one down.
But the NCAA Individual champion birdie the 11th from 13 feet and the 13th from 20 feet to go three up.
“Six was a bit of a turning point. I got good saves 3 and 5 to stay in it and he looked like he was dead in the hazard and managed to make a bomb for birdie. He got a good birdie on 7.
“We both got nice birdies on eight. Nine was playing tough, so I got a nice par to win the hole to get back to 1. But managed to get a good save on 10. Then he birdied 11. Hit two good shots in, made the putt. So went to 2-down.”
Dunne did not go down without a fight took the match to the 16th by holing a 35 footer for a two at the 15th that DeChambeau matched brilliant from six feet.
He couldn’t make another bomb on the 16th and DeChambeau made a five footer for par to advance to semi-finals where he will face Zimbabwe born fellow Californian, Sean Crocker.
Dunne added: “I thought at some point if I could get some pressure on him, you find out if he is really hitting it well. It's easy to get up there - it's not easy but it's easier to get up there and keep hitting good shots when you're ahead and there's not that much pressure on you.
“The putts I was making was kind of more to stay in it than to put pressure on him. It was disappointing that I didn't get to put a little bit of pressure on just to see how he would respond to that.
“Yeah, it was basically I was just trying to hang in there while I was playing him on a day he had his game. It was always going to be difficult.”
DeChambeau begged to differ.
“Yes, and no,” he said. “Because he was putting incredible. So I had that aspect to deal with, and he made a lot of putts today. But again, coming from the tee shots, he wasn't hitting his best and that did relax me a little bit knowing that I could keep hitting fairways and greens and wear him out that way. And that's ultimately what I did. And it came down to him hitting it into a couple bad places and him missing a couple putts.”
Describing the day as “incredible,” DeChambeau said. “Starting off with his putt that he made on 3, and going forward and making -- well, I made the putt on 6. On 10 he made a 30-footer. So he's an incredible player. Didn't have his A Game. But luckily enough, I was able to capitalise on a couple of putts.
“One key putt that I thought was immense was on 15, where I made that little 6-footer after he drained that 30-footer again. That was big, a big confidence booster for me going into the next hole knowing that I can get the job done on the next hole.”
Asked about the key moments, DeChambeau said: “When he hit that tee shot on 13 (into the left rough) that switched the momentum pretty heavily. He had to pitch it out and obviously didn't make par and I capitalised and made birdie. So that was a big momentum change there.
“I didn't make very many mistakes out there today. I played very well, and the only mistake I had —and it was because we were on the clock and I was rushing myself a little bit was on nine where I made bogey. But other than that, I think fortunately for me, it was his mistake. We are both great players. He's a class act, great guy and I was fortunate enough to play a little bit better today than him.”
The birdie he made on the sixth had to be seen to be believed and it was unquestionably one of the keys as Dunne looked odds on to walk way one up but lost the hole and never got back on terms for the rest of the day.
Asked which shots showed his artistic side, DeChambeau said: “Oh, well, definitely No. 6 where I had to hit it out of the hazard, and I got lucky to get that thing out and into the left hand rough. I was actually fortunate to hit it in the rough because it was 225 I think to the pin into the wind, and normally if I was in the fairway, I wouldn't have been able to get my 20-degree there.
“So I would have had to hit hybrid and would have gone higher and I wouldn't have been able to control the ball as much.Hitting it out of there was artistic and I was able to punch it out and I also caught a flyer coming out of that rough and I came way back in my stance and tried to put a bullet up there.
“And then, honestly I had a certain line on my putt, but for some reason, I felt intrinsically internally that I was supposed to aim a little bit more and I did it and it went in the hole. I hit my 20-degree, which is a 3-iron or 2-iron almost for me.”
Asked the significance of his win, DeChambeau said: “That can get it done. I know I can play with the best out there. And seeing that Paul was able to be in the lead going into the final round at the British was pretty incredible, and beating him today only gives me more belief that I can play with the best out there.”
Dunne refused to get carried away with his run to the last eight, explaining that Irish golf, and Irish amateur golf, is in a great place.
“Definitely, proud of how I played but it not really a surprise for Irish golf, really,” he said. “We have five people in the top 40 in the world. For a small country, amateur golf, that's pretty strong. I don't think it's a surprise that one of us did well this week. Just happened to be me this week.
“Every week a different Irish guy seems to be up there competing. So Irish golf is in good hands, especially in the pro ranks, as well, with Shane winning a couple weeks ago. Looking forward to the next few weeks.”
Dunne will travel home with Gary Hurley and Cormac Sharvin on Monday and they have high hopes that they make the trip knowing they are in the Walker Cup team which is named that day,
“We booked our flights back with positive expectations (laughter),” Dunne said.
DeChambeau will face University of Southern California sophomore Sean Crocker, and Japanese national team member Kenta Kinoshi will meet University of Virginia junior Derek Bard in Saturday’s semifinals at Olympia Fields.
Crocker, 18, beat Canadian Austin James 2 up as Kinoshi, 21, edged Baylor sophomore Matthew Perrine 1 up and Bard, eliminated Spain’s Jon Rahm, No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, 1 up.
Kinoshi, a student at Tohoku Fukushi University who played for Japan in the 2014 World Amateur Team Championship, held off Perrine, who won holes 15 and 17 to square the match, with a winning par on 18.
“This is the biggest tournament in my life,” said Kinoshi, who once defeated Hideki Matsuyama in a Japanese amateur tournament. “And I think I'm playing really well this week.”
He is attempting to become the first Japanese winner of the US Amateur and the second Japanese USGA champion, joining Michiko Hattori, who won the 1985 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Thhe 36-hole final is set for Sunday.
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Results from Friday’s quarterfinal round of match play at the 2015 U.S. Amateur Championship, played at 7,234 yard, par 36-34-70 North Course (NC) at Olympia Fields Country Club.
- Kenta Konishi, Japan (140) def. Matthew Perrine, Austin, Texas (142), 1 up
- Derek Bard, New Hartford, N.Y. (142) def. Jon Rahm, Spain (143), 1 up
- Bryson DeChambeau, Clovis, Calif. (140) def. Paul Dunne, Republic of Ireland (140), 3 and 2
- Sean Crocker, Westlake Village, Calif. (140) def. Austin James, Canada (140), 2 up
Pairings for Saturday’s semifinal round of match play at the 2015 U.S. Amateur Championship, played at 7,234 yard, par 36-34-70 North Course (NC) at Olympia Fields Country Club.
All Times CDT
- 8 a.m. - Kenta Konishi, Japan (140) vs. Derek Bard, New Hartford, N.Y. (142)
- 8:20 a.m. - Bryson DeChambeau, Clovis, Calif. (140) vs. Sean Crocker, Westlake Village, Calif. (140)