There was a gasp of horror unlike any other that roared through the trees of Sahalee by the 16th hole on Sunday afternoon. Well, sorta. I was kneeling on the hillside by the green when Tom Kite, who was two-under and in third place going into the 70th hole, hit a straight shank into the gallery and the trees on the right from an awful lie on the downhill slope. Everyone — including Kite — was stunned. Known for the dramatic, he looked too horrified to react and put his hand over his mouth like a little kid thinking “Oh my God, what just happened?”
“He shanked it!” a few people murmured. One guy, who was probably in his early 20s, kept repeating to his friend, “I’ve never seen a pro hit it like that in my life.”
From the trees, he punched out to near the greenside bunker. Standing with his feet in the bunker and the ball above in the rough, he chipped it up to about 8 feet. He missed his putt for what I — and those around me — counted to be 7.
We had seen him hit to the spot that he shanked it from. When the score posted on the leaderboard by the green, the red 2 turned into a green three. Someone said, “He made a 9.” Huh? I assumed his tee ball went out of bounds because his shot off the hosel stayed in, and I’m told that is what was reported on the telecast.
Kite declined to speak to the media afterward.
With a big 9 on his scorecard, he shot 73 and somehow finished in the top-ten (T9). Sometimes 9s happen at the US Open — even when it’s the Seniors — and it’s not difficult to do at Sahalee.
Hopefully it won’t give him nightmares for too long.
[Photo by Steve Gibbons/USGA]