(Springfield, N.J.) - What Happened: 15-year-old Kelly Chinn, of Great Falls, Va., earned medalist honors in his first USGA championship, following up Monday’s 66 with a 3-under 67 on the Lower Course at Baltusrol Golf Club. Chinn birdied five of his last six holes on Tuesday to vault to the top of the leader board with a 36-hole score of 8-under 133, besting Ricky Castillo and Karl Vilips by two strokes.
Chinn, who attends Langley High School in McLean, Va., got off to a shaky start on his back nine Tuesday, making bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11. But then his solid all-around game took over. Chinn rolled in a 20-foot putt for birdie on No. 13 and a 15-footer for birdie on No. 14. On No. 15, he hit a 4-iron out of the rough to 3 feet. Sharp wedges on Nos. 17 and 18 allowed him to finish with back-to-back birdies.
“I feel really good about my game, so I’m really excited for match play," said Chinn. "This is such a huge tournament. Just to be in it was amazing, and to be medalist would be really high on my achievement list."
Vilips, who shared the lead with Chinn after Round 1, was also solid on the Lower Course Tuesday. The Australia native hit a wedge to 2 feet on No. 18 for a birdie to finish off a 1-under 69. The 16-year-old had four birdies to go along with three bogeys, all of the latter coming on the back nine.
Castillo, of Yorba Linda, Calif., also played the Lower Course on Tuesday, birdieing his last two holes, the only par 5s on the course, to post a 2-under 68. The 17-year-old advanced to the Round of 16 in last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur, and he also advanced to the Round of 32 in the U.S. Amateur a year ago.
The round of the championship thus far was turned in by Japan’s Yuki Moriyama, who fired a bogey-free, 5-under 65 on the Lower Course, including a 29 on the front nine, tying the championship record for nine holes.
All three USGA champions in the field, 2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball co-champions Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, and 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball co-champion Shuai Ming (Ben) Wong, advanced to match play. Hammer shot 68 on the Upper Course on Tuesday to finish at 4-under 137, while Wong finished at even-par 141 and Barber at 5-over 146.
What’s Next: Eight players at 7-over-par 148 will play off for the final three spots in the match-play bracket, starting at 7 a.m. on the fourth hole of the Lower Course. The Round of 64 will begin at 8 a.m. on the Upper Course.
Trent Phillips (-4, 70): “I feel like I’m improving for sure, especially coming off the practice rounds. I played some of my worst golf. I didn’t know where the ball was going, I was just hitting it. To shoot what I did the last two days, two under-par rounds, was kind of shocking. I just tried to come out here with no expectations and just go low.”
Ricky Castillo (-6, 68): “My game feels like it’s in the right place right now. I didn’t have any terrible shots so I didn’t really put myself in a bad position. I was just trying to play a solid game and get into match play. I wasn’t trying to look for anything crazy.”
Ilrian Zalli (-3, 68): “I’ve never played match play, but I like the fact that I am able to play against one player, one person. I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a surprise. I know what to do and what not to do. I’m just going to leave it all on the table tomorrow.”
Cole Hammer (-4, 68): “I am glad we don’t have to come out tomorrow morning and finish. It’s nice and kind of the same schedule I have always been on for this tournament. I feel like I am prepared and playing well, I really have fun with match play.”
Moriyama’s 29 was the second in U.S. Junior Amateur history. Eric Bae shot 29 on his inward nine during the second round of stroke play in the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur, held at The Club at Carlton Woods (Nicklaus Course), in The Woodlands, Texas.
While the Upper Course was the easier of the two courses, only three bogey-free rounds were recorded during stroke play, and all of them were on the Lower Course. Akshay Bhatia fired a 4-under 66 on the Lower on Monday, and on Tuesday, Yuki Moriyama (65) and Joseph Pagdin (67) accomplished the feat.
Through seven holes on Tuesday, Canon Claycomb, 16, was sitting at 6 over for the championship, right around the cut line. That all changed in a hurry. Claycomb birdied five of his last 11 holes on the Upper Course, including his last three, to post 1-over 142 and comfortably book a spot in match play.