Aug. 15, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
If you thought Ollie Schniederjans looked surprised Thursday afternoon in bowing out of the U.S. Amateur Championship with a 1-up loss to Gunn Yang, you made the right read.
The Georgia Tech senior went on a wild ride at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
In the morning, the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur survived himself and a spirited push from Sam Burns to win on the 20th hole in the round of 32 after taking a 3-up lead to the 15th hole.
In the afternoon, Ollie led 1-up with three to go, and lost despite going par-par-birdie to close as Yang went birdie-birdie-birdie.
Burns is a rising high school senior.
Yang, a native of South Korea, played in just two events for San Diego State as a freshman, and two more as a sophomore.
“He was out of his mind, really,” Schniederjans said of Yang down the stretch. “He’s going to be good if he keeps doing that.”
Even Yang, who reached the quarterfinals with three consecutive 1-up wins, including a first-round triumph over former Tech golfer Seth Reeves, seemed surprised by the afternoon turn of events.
Schniederjans led 2-up after just four holes. Yang led 2-up after nine. The match was all square Nos. 12-14, and then Ollie went one up with a par at No. 15 before his opponent’s somewhat remarkable closing birdie binge.
Asked by a media moderator if there was a point Thursday afternoon where he thought he was playing as well as he possibly could, Yang agreed.
“Oh, yeah, I mean, this is like the — this match was maybe the best match I’ve ever played,” he said. “I was excited, also. I was smiling on the course, because he hit so many good shots, also. So it was a real interesting match.”
Schniederjans rued his putter in the afternoon, and his lack of patience overall. He might also want to check Yang’s pitching wedge.
“I shot like five under, but that’s what you should do on this stage without wind,” he said after the match with Yang. “I didn’t make the 10 footers. I played pretty good golf, but I missed the critical putts.”
The shot of the match came on the 418-yard, par four 16th – by Yang.
A day earlier, he bogeyed there after an errant tee shot as Reeves shot par to pull within 1-up.
Against Schniederjans, Yang’s tee shot found a fairway bunker. He pulled the pitching wedge out for a 138-yard play out of the sand.
That ball came to rest about four feet from the cup, setting up the birdie that squared the match.
On the 144-yard, par three 17th, Yang played that pitching wedge off the tee to about eight feet for the birdie that gave him the lead.
On the 507-yard, par five 18th, where a day earlier laid up with a 1-up lead against Reeves, Yang played a soft six iron 190 yards to the set up a lag putt that Ollie conceded for a clinching birdie.
“It’s stupid, laying up [while] trying to make a birdie on that hole,” Yang said of going for it. “I mean, I don’t like a really passive way of playing golf. I’m kind of an aggressive player also.”
After the morning match, where Burns missed a putt to win on the first playoff hole, Schniederjans had some second thoughts about his own aggressive nature.
With that three-up lead with four to go, he went for it out of the sand on No. 15.
Ollie needed two shots to get out of the bunker on the way to dropping the hole. The goal of ending the match right there did not work after Schniederjans said he, “tried to get too cute with a bunker shot.”
At the tying 18th hole, he was trying to layup short of the water with his second shot against Burns.
Again, he was playing out of a fairway bunker. This time, Ollie came out too strong. His ball wound up wet and he dropped the hole to force extras.
“I hit a pitching wedge, and I thinned it too much. It was another case of me being too fast, and being a complete idiot,” he said. “It was about 170 to the water. I thinned it really good. Even when I thinned it, I thought it would stay short but it was coming in too hot.”
After Burns narrowly missed what would have been a winning putt on the first playoff hole, Schniederjans clinched the match.
He was not happy with himself after the way he finished.
“On 18, I let him win the hole with a bogey. It was literally a nightmare, and for me to get through that, I certainly learned from it,” he said. “I play really fast, and when it got down to the end, it got even faster and I wasn’t thinking through my shots sometimes and it cost me big time . . .
“I should have already known that, but it’s amazing how under pressure sometimes things come up and it’s hard to think straight. I can’t believe that I got through that match finally.”
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