No other way to put it -- Owensboro's John Augenstein is a win away from being paired with Tiger Woods in the 2020 Masters.
With laser-like focus and efficiency, the ever-consistent Augenstein defeated William Holcomb V, of Crockett, Texas, 3 and 2 with a barrage of pars on Saturday in the semifinal round of the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
Augenstein, a 21-year-old rising senior at Vanderbilt University, will face Andy Ogletree, of Little Rock, Arkansas, in Sunday's 36-hole finale.
Ogletree dispatched Cohen Trolio, of West Point, Mississippi, 3 and 1 in Saturday's other semifinal.
Afterward, Augenstein, a former star at Owensboro Catholic High School, was asked by Fox television golf analyst and former PGA Tour great Curtis Strange what his goals were coming into the event.
"To make the Walker Cup team and win the U.S. Amateur Championship," Augenstein responded.
Augenstein put on a clinic Saturday, prevailing by way of 15 consecutive pars and a conceded birdies on the Par 4 No. 16 hole, which wrapped up the victory.
"He played a wonderful match," Holcomb said of Augenstein in his post-match interview with Fox. "He was flawless -- he has the best short game I've seen out here."
The key hole on Saturday may well have been the Par 4 No. 13. Augenstein twice hit shots in the sand, but managed to save par with a brilliant up and down from a greenside bunker.
That provided momentum for the Par 4 No. 14 hole, where Augenstein got up and down following a delicate pitch shot in front of the green, which featured a swale in front with the pin tucked close to the front. Holcomb missed a short par putt, giving Augenstein a 2-up advantage.
It was all but over.
Augenstein and Holcomb, after pulling their tee shots left of the green, both made superb up and downs at the Par 3 No. 15 hole, but Holcomb ran into trouble on the Par 4 16th and ultimately conceded the match to Augenstein, who hit a perfect drive and a superb 9-iron from 168 yards to set up a birdie putt he never even had to attempt.
As sharp as he was, Augenstein said he could have been better.
"I hit some good tee shots and some not-so-good ones," he told Strange. "My iron play and wedge play wasn't as good as it's been."
By reaching the finals, Augenstein has automatically secured an invitation for the Masters and U.S. Open in 2020.
A victory on Sunday, meanwhile, would automatically qualify Augenstein for the Masters, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship (British Open), and would land him a spot on the 10-player U.S. Walker Cup team -- basically the amateur equivalent of the Ryder Cup.
At the Masters, as the U.S. Amateur champion, Augenstein would be paired for the first two rounds with the iconic event's defending champion and another iconic figure -- Tiger Woods.
Augenstein entered this week's tournament 38th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and, among the three other semifinalists, no player ranked among the top 100.
Despite this, he's taking
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nothing for granted entering play on Sunday.
"I've been through this match-play thing too many times to assume that somebody's going to make it just because of their name," Augenstein told the Associated Press. "Teams get beat in college (by opponents) that aren't as good, and players get beat all the time (by opponents) that aren't as good."
Augenstein and Ogletree will play two 18-hole rounds on Sunday.
Live coverage of the morning round (Course No. 4) can be streamed via usamateur.com at 10 a.m., with Fox beginning its coverage of the afternoon round (Course No. 2) at 2:30 p.m.