Take a gander at the U.S. Open leaderboard. So far, it’s not what most expected to see – but no doubt there are plenty of interesting story lines. Mike Weir shot 64 with a double-bogey in the first round and Lucas Glover matched it in his second round. Ricky Barnes set the U.S. Open scoring record with an 8-under-par 132. David Duval has surprised everyone firing three-under-par and T4 at the moment. Tiger Woods, the clear favorite to win when the week began, is eleven shots back from the lead.
But, the story of the day goes to “that kid” Nick Taylor. The 21-year-old University of Washington senior shot 5-under-par 65 in his second round at Bethpage Black for a two round total of two-under-par. That’s only the third 65 carded by an amateur in the history of the U.S. Open! Going into the third round, he’s T7. It goes without saying that’s really good. (He’s making me sound like a genius.)
Consider the circumstances. There’s the weather. There’s the intimidation factor that comes with competing at a major championship – not to mention, held at Bethpage. You have to be mentally and physically strong, composed and patient. Nick shows that he has what it takes – you can tell just by watching him play and talking to him. When I spoke with him on Monday, I mentioned that he seemed level-headed while he was practicing and asked if that were usually the case. He replied, “I’m low key and level emotionally. I don’t get too excited or down.”
Now, this isn’t his first experience playing at the U.S. Open. Last year, he qualified for it at Torrey Pines, but missed the cut by three shots. The sometimes rowdy New York crowds don’t seem to bother him either. In fact, they appear to encourage him, “[The galleries] are going to be crazy and fun – a lot more entertaining than San Diego.”
Yesterday was a long day for those that played both in the morning and afternoon. Not wanting to bother him, I thought I’d just send him a quick text saying good job. I was surprised when he immediately responded, “Thanks, so tiring.” Then, I decided to ask the obvious question we would all want to know, “What’s working for you?” His simple reply was, “I drove the ball great and made a lot of putts in the afternoon.” He sure did – he hit 75% of fairways and made seven birdies in his second round, one which resulted from holing out a bunker shot on the 14th hole – his last shot on Friday!
Tremendous is just one word to describe Nick’s play – especially when you remember he is still an amateur. And it was only Monday when he said, “It’s cool to play with the rest of these guys when I’m not even on the PGA Tour or a pro – I get a preview of what it’s like to play in a major.”
With what will likely be two more intense rounds of golf on the horizon, he seems poised enough to hang with the big boys and finish with one of the more memorable amateur performances in recent U.S. Open history.