ERIN, Wis. (AP) – Cameron Champ is one of the longest hitters at the U.S. Open. He keeps to himself while he plays. There is a quiet confidence about him as he makes his way around Erin Hills.
Nothing amateur about his game. He looks right at home in one of golf’s biggest tournaments.
The 22-year-old Champ blasted his way to a 3-under 69 in the second round Friday, drawing attention for his long drives and steady putting. No amateur has won the Open since Johnny Goodman in 1933, but the easygoing Champ seems to be gaining confidence the longer he lurks near the top of the leaderboard.
“I came in this week with no expectations really at all,” he said. “I just – the only expectation I had was to be low Am. I played well. The course sets up very well for me off the tee. If you hit it off the tee you can score.”
Champ was humming along at even par in the second round when the Texas A&M senior closed with a flourish, recording four birdies and one bogey over his final seven holes.
The successful stretch included birdies on two massive par 5s. On the 603-yard 14th, he got to the green in two. His tee shot on 18 traveled almost 353 yards, and he finished his round with a 12-footer to get to 5 under, just two shots back of leaders Paul Casey, Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood and Brooks Koepka.
“Man, that kid is just super long off the tee and he’s always on the fairway,” said Xander Schauffele, who played alongside Champ for the first two rounds and also was at 5 under. “With that combination, this course is (an) incredible setup for him. I feel like I’m not the shortest guy. I think the stats don’t say I’m the shortest guy, and I can’t even sniff where he’s hitting the ball. He’s very impressive.”
Champ has hit 21 of 28 fairways so far and leads the field with a driving average of 339.3 yards, which he brushed off as nothing new.
“In college I normally am the longest,” he said. “Yeah, I guess I’ve just kind of always been that way. I don’t talk about it much. You’ve still got to make a score. Here if you can hit it long and straight, it’s a great advantage. I took advantage of it the last few days.”
Champ was a touted recruit out of Sacramento, California, when he committed to play for the Aggies. But he was hampered by injuries at the start of his career at Texas A&M.
He got healthy by working out and stretching more, and a practice round with Rory McIlroy and Louis Oosthuizen at Erin Hills helped pave the way for his fast start at the U.S. Open.
“Just to see their games and how they play, I’ve grown up watching them,” he said. “And I can hit those shots. Obviously they’ve been in this position many more times than I have. They’ve won major championships. So just kind of gave me a confidence boost, knowing that I can hit those shots.”
After Champ, the next amateur is Scottie Scheffler at 1 under. Scheffler plays for the University of Texas, but don’t expect any trouble as the rivals try for the low amateur honor this weekend.
“Me and Scottie are really good friends, so it will be kind of fun,” said Champ, who celebrated his birthday Thursday. “Yeah, it’s still my expectation. I’ll just keep playing, whatever my score is at the end of the day it is. I’m not going to try to put any extra pressure on me.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.