NEWPORT, R.I. -- Before the week's centennial U.S. Amateur championship began, Tiger Woods, the defending champion, expected to be in today's final. Buddy Marucci expected to be home in Berwyn, Pa., today.
Woods, 19, clinched his place, but not without a struggle, as Mark Plummer, 43, the Everyman of this championship from Manchester, Maine, took him to the 18th green before yielding, 2-up, in their semifinal.
In the other semifinal, Marucci, 43, struck a blow for the older players by outlasting Steve Scott, 18, from Coral Springs, Fla. But it was a tiring ordeal before the University of Maryland graduate won with a 19th-hole birdie for the second time in less than six hours.
"I'm happy with the way I got around," said Woods, who has yet to be behind in any of his matches. "He [Plummer] doesn't have the prettiest swing, but it got the job done. . . . The match didn't have a turning point, but I was patient and stayed focused."
Woods is 13-2 in U.S. Amateur matches over the past four years; Marucci, in his 16th Amateur, had never been past the round of 16 until this time.
"For the final, there'll be less pressure on me," Woods said. "I've been there, and I know what to expect."
Said Marucci: "I'm going to concentrate on playing the course, and try not to let him dictate the play."
In his morning quarterfinal, Marucci had a two-foot birdie at the 10th hole (first playoff hole) to oust defending U.S. Mid-Amateur titlist Tim Jackson, from Germantown, Tenn. Marucci had squared the match with a birdie at the 16th.
At the playoff hole in his match with Scott, Marucci came out of a bunker to six feet. "I thought the bunker shot was easier than the putt," he said of his winning effort after Scott had missed his birdie putt.
"He won the match; I didn't give it to him," Scott said.
"My exhaustion showed in the middle of the match, but then the adrenalin got going," said Marucci. He got even with a birdie at the 11th, fell one back at the par-3 14th -- a green he has not hit all week -- and that was the start of a yo-yo show.
Marucci birdied the 15th (15 feet) to get even; Scott birdied the 16th (15 feet) for 1-up, but Marucci came right back to win the 17th with a par after Scott found two bunkers.
No more than one hole separated Woods and Plummer until the defender won the 14th and 15th. Plummer, a reinstated amateur who is now a salesman after nearly 10 years as a deputy county sheriff, battled back to take the 16th with a par, and almost got even at the 17th.
"I had a 25-footer downhill and I thought I had a good chance to make it," he said of a putt at 17 that nearly went in. At the 18th, he was short in two, and Woods was on, about 18 feet away. A chip and two putts and Plummer's dream was gone.
"Hey, I had a great week. Just to get here was a thrill, and my goal was to win a match [for the first time in three appearances]. There'll be a lot of good memories."
NOTES: Woods won four holes in a row in the middle of the round to put away Scott Kammann in the morning, 5 and 3. . . . Plummer, 2-down after 11, beat Jason Enloe by winning five holes in a row.
Mark Plummer (143), Manchester, Me., def. Jason Enloe (143), Decatur, Ill., 3 and 2; Tiger Woods (143), Cypress, Calif., def. Scott Kammann (142), White Pine, Tenn., 5 and 3; George Marucci (143), Berwyn, Pa., def. Tim Jackson (144), Germantown, Tenn., 19 holes; Steve Scott (144), Coral Springs, Fla., def. Duke Delcher (141), Linwood, N.J., 3 and 2.
Woods def. Plummer, 2-up; Marucci def. Scott, 19 holes.