OAKMONT, Pa. Austin Greaser, who was trailing at the back nine in Oakmont all week, responded by winning four straight holes and concluding Travis Vick on the 17th hole in their semifinal in the American Amateur on Saturday.
Greaser has yet to play the 18th hole in game in five rounds.
Next up is the 36-hole championship game against senior Michigan State James Piot, who also made a big run around the corner in a 4 and 3 win over Nick Gabrelcik.
The fringe benefits are already pouring in for the finalists, who will get releases for the Masters and US Open at The Country Club in June. The winner on Sunday also won a place in the 150th British Open in St. Petersburg. Andrews.
They all knew what was at stake, along with the size of the gallery, with nearly 1,000 people following along the fairway and on the sides of the green.
Greaser, who won the Ohio Amateur last year and is going into his junior season in North Carolina, felt more nervous than ever against Vick, who took a 1-point lead three times.
And then Greaser took control, starting a conventional game along the 11th fairway – some players went left to the 10th fairway for a better corner to the pin – and hit wedge up to 8 feet. He hits another piece up to 8 feet below the hole on the par-5 12th.
Vick could not keep up, and dropped another shot with the par-3 13th by going from a bunker to the rough. Greaser saved his best for the end of the big run and the driver hit about 320 yards on the green for a 35-foot two-pointer.
“The best ride I’ve had all week,” Greaser said.
Vick tried to keep it close and won the 15th with an over when Greaser hit two weak shots, and the par-3 16th when Greaser could not save par from a bunker.
But on the achievable 17th, Vick pulls his ride into a foot-long hay that lies. He could not get it at the green, cut a length of 15 meters, missed the paraputt and conceded.
None of the last nine holes have been halved.
“It stings when there is something to play for, like the Masters, and you appear and do not play your best golf,” Vick said.
Piot was, as always, funny, and grew up on a public course complex in Michigan, where it was not uncommon to play 72 holes a day.
He dropped just two shots at Oakmont – the first hole that suited him all week, and the eighth par -3 with a soft slide from just over the green. Otherwise, he kept it in the game of tea and kept the tension to a minimum, leaving mistakes to Grabelcik.
The match was square through eight holes when Grabelcik got into trouble at the tee at number 9 and made a double bogey. Grabelcik gave away another hole on the 10th with a long three-legged bogey, and Piot took a 25-foot birdie putt on the 11th to put away.
The clincher arrives on the 15th, when Piot gets a bunker off the tee and goes to lie down shortly before the green. He hits his third in 15 feet and runs the par putt, while Grabelcik walks into a green bunker and cannot save par.
The 36-hole championship game means Greaser, the 82nd-ranked player in the world amateur rankings, will play the 18th hole for the first time since qualifying. Piot, a fifth-year senior due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is number 86 in the amateur position.