Jun
15
2012
U.S. Open third-round pairings and Friday tidbits
By Stephanie Wei under US Open

View of the 18th green

So, all the work I did in the last two hours was just lost. FML. Somehow it didn’t auto-save and when I hit “publish,” I discovered I had been signed out and my draft hadn’t been saved. Awesome. I don’t think I’ve felt that pit in my stomach since college. I mean, c’mon, technology!

Well, I guess I’ll redo it later, but bed for now. Here are the tee times for Saturday:

9:15 a.m.: Kevin Streelman, Bo Van Pelt
9:25 a.m.: Joe Ogilvie, Patrick Cantlay (a)
9:35 a.m.: Matthew Baldwin, Steve LeBrun
9:45 a.m.: Jesse Mueller, Rickie Fowler
9:55 a.m.: Angel Cabrera, Jordan Spieth
10:05 a.m.: Casey Wittenberg, Nicholas Thompson
10:15 a.m.: Jeff Curl, Simon Dyson
10:25 a.m.: Francesco Molinari, Bob Estes
10:35 a.m.: Rod Pampling, Davis Love III
10:45 a.m.: Stephen Ames, Zach Johnson
10:55 a.m.: Phil Mickelson, Alex Cejka
11:05 a.m.: K.T. Kim, Keegan Bradley
11:15 a.m.: Adam Scott, Hiroyuki Fujita
11:25 a.m.: Jonathan Byrd, Scott Langley
11:35 a.m.: Darron Stiles, Jason Day
11:45 a.m.: Morgan Hoffmann, Marc Warren
11:55 a.m.: Robert Karlsson, Webb Simpson
12:05 p.m.: Retief Goosen, Branden Grace
12:15 p.m.: Kevin Na, Jason Bohn
12:25 p.m.: Kevin Chappell, Matteo Manassero
12:35 p.m.: Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer
12:45 p.m.: Lee Westwood, John Senden
12:55 p.m.: Hunter Hamrick, Michael Allen
1:05 p.m.: Alistair Presnell, Padraig Harrington
1:15 p.m.: J.B. Park, Steve Stricker
1:25 p.m.: Ernie Els, Justin Rose
1:35 p.m.: Nick Watney, Sergio Garcia
1:45 p.m.: Charlie Wi, Fredrik Jacobson
1:55 p.m.: K.J. Choi, Charl Schwartzel
2:05 p.m.: Raphael Jacquelin, Beau Hossler (a)
2:15 p.m.: Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar
2:25 p.m.: Hunter Mahan, Aaron Watkins
2:35 p.m.: Blake Adams, Michael Thompson
2:45 p.m.: Graeme McDowell, Nicolas Colsaerts
2:55 p.m.: John Peterson, David Toms
3:05 p.m.: Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk

*****

*Kudos to 14-year-old Andy Zhang, who became the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Open. Though Zhang, who is originally from Beijing, China, and moved to Florida four years ago, didn’t make the cut, he also didn’t finish last! No, seriously, Zhang conducted himself like a pro. What were you doing the summer after you graduated 8th grade? Well, since you asked, I was playing in junior golf tournaments — mostly Washington Junior Golf Association-run events — and pumped I’d started to break 80 consistently. Definitely not thinking about even qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open.

Anyone catch Zhang’s presser on Wednesday? Wow. Best one I’d been to all week (and it’s holding up still). I can’t imagine being 14 and speaking at a press conference at the U.S. freaking Open. He did very well and showed a lot of charisma. He’s definitely an extremely mature 14-year-old…

My apologies I wasn’t able to publish this on Wednesday, but hey, it’s Saturday and it’s still interesting. This post was penned by Zack, a young golf enthusiast who otherwise makes a living in private equity — you might be seeing him contribute to WUP on a regular basis going forward…

******

Tomorrow morning, Andy Zhang will become the youngest ever player to compete in the Open.  He grew up in Shandong, a town about four hours South of Beijing.  When he was ten, he moved with his family to Orlando and began competing.

A mere four years later, on his final qualifying hole in Lake Whales, Florida, he stood over an eagle putt that would send him to the U.S. Open.  He missed, and would later lose in a playoff to Brooks Koepka.

His brush with Open lore, however, wasn’t over quite yet.  After withdrawals by Paul Casey and Brandt Snedeker, Zhang, the second alternate, got the call and secured his spot in history.

He had planned on being a face in the crowd at this year’s Open, even scheming to try to score some autographs from players using the practice facilities.  Instead, he was shocked to realize that he was the one being recognized around the grounds at Olympic.  He was even asked to sign a few autographs of his own.

In his remarks this afternoon, never did he sound so excited as when he described his first interaction with one of his idols:

“Yeah.  It was yesterday morning about 6:05, I was on the range, hitting balls.  My Buddy, Chris, he was like, “Hey, Andy look behind you, it’s Tiger.”  I looked back, it was Tiger walking up.  And I got really excited.  And he actually came up to me and shook my hand.  And I was like, ‘Wow, I just shook Tiger’s hand.’”

His youthful naiveté and wide-eyed grin are absolutely contagious.  In a world of massive egos and kicked clubs, Zhang reminds us all of why we love this game in the first place.  The dream that any one of us, with a lot of hard work and a little luck, can eventually play side by side with some of the greatest players the game has ever known.

Shortly before Zhang spoke at his first ever press conference, Jack Nicklaus himself sat down with reporters and told the story of his first USGA tournament.  He was 13 years old at the 1953 Junior Championship at Southern Hills.

“ I’ll never forget walking up on the first tee, about 30 seconds before my starting time, and on the tee was Joe Dye and Colonel Lee S. Reed in his white suit with his little goatee.  He looked like the Kentucky Fried Chicken guy.  But anyway, he was a starter, from Louisville.

“I walked on the tee about 30 seconds before I teed off and Joe Dye said, “Young man, 30 seconds later you’ll be starting the second tee, 1down.”  That was my introduction to USGA golf.  I promise you, I was never late for a starting time.”

That’s good advice for Zhang, who took the microphone less than a few hours later.

“I am shaking a little right now sitting here,” he said, with a quiet smile. “I heard Jack Nicklaus was sitting in this chair this morning. Was he? Yeah? So I’m trying to get used to this. I’m not doing quite well right now.”

The room erupted with amused laughter from the press. He was doing better than well.

*****

Zhang shot 79-77. I watched him play a few holes on Wednesday, and honestly, I didn’t think he’d break 80. Well done, kid.

*****

Speaking of teens, how about Beau Hossler?! The 17-year-old held the outright lead at one point on Friday. I walked a practice round with Hossler last year at Congressional and profiled him (combined effort by myself and Conor). I was happy to run into him and his caddie, also his godfather, Bill Schellenberg, on Wednesday.Beau still has braces, but he’s filled out since last summer. He looks almost all grown-up! Well, he’s certainly matured as a golfer.

The Hoss ran into some trouble on the front nine (he teed off No. 9) on Friday, but he still carded a 73 and posted three-over for 36 holes, good enough for T9 going into the weekend. That’s decent. You know, for a 17-year-old.

*****

Hunter Hamrick, the standout from University of Alabama, is making his professional debut at the U.S. Open after securing a spot in the field at the Memphis sectional qualifier. Hamrick shot a 3-under 67 for the low-round on Friday. His caddie Todd Montoya deserves a shout-out for getting his young horse around the track. Remember him? Yep, it’s Overkill Jr., who shared his comprehensive and thorough pre-tourney prep with us on Wednesday.

*****

I walked the back nine with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson on Friday afternoon. It’s all old news now and it’ll take me too long to rewrite my piece from last night, but one of the highlights? Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers walked nearly all 18 holes (inside the ropes) with the threesome. Rodgers was the most popular guy at Olympic on Friday. Fans hollered “Aaron!!!” more than “Tiger,” “Phil” or “Bubba.” Rodgers was receptive to the attention, waving to the crowd and fist-bumping guys as he walked alongside the ropes. Seemed like a good dude. Pretty good QB, too.

*****

Look out for Jim Furyk, who won the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. Not surprised at all to see him playing well. His conservative game fits the U.S. Open-style to a tee.

Seeing his name atop the leaderboard reminded me of something we talked about on Sunday after his final round at the Masters.

“Until you get the chance to win here, it’s definitely an extra notch up of controlling your nerves and slowing the pace down and sticking to what got you there,” said Furyk, whose playing style is more conservative and conventional (not his swing, though). “I’ll tell you what — I wanted to throw a brick through the TV when I saw Phil on No. 13 (in 2010) in the pine straw, I was yelling, ‘Just lay it up!’

“And then (Phil) hit it five feet. So I said, ‘Maybe that’s why he’s winning the Masters and I’m not.’

“I think you have to pick and choose your times, but eventually at a course that’s difficult and severe, you’re going to have to hit some really good golf shots.”

Well, maybe Furyk’s patient approach and blase game plan — the antithesis of Phil — is why he has won a U.S. Open and leading at Olympic, while Phil has come up just short five times. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

*****

I caught up with Joe LaCava, Tiger’s caddie, yesterday. As always, Joe provided great insight, which humanizes his boss. Tiger and Joe played a practice round at Olympic on Tuesday the week of the Memorial Tournament.

Some highlights from our chat:

*”We came here Tuesday before Memorial and he said, ‘I like this golf course.’ So I knew going in, we were going to have a good chance because it’s just nice to have a good state of mind two weeks before you get here — knowing you like the golf course, you like what you saw and you think you’re going to do well, so I think that helped going into this week.

“Obviously, he feels very comfortable at Augusta, too. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t comfortable, but it’s nice knowing two weeks before that he was comfortable. I think he was going through a game plan in his mind of how to play these holes for two weeks now, I’m guessing.”

*”He hits a beautiful 4-iron into No. 6 and basically gets screwed and a beautifully 4-iron into No. 17 and basically gets screwed. That was a tough break on No. 17. Beautiful chip to get it to where it was. Incredible.”

*”He does seem more at ease and in complete control of his game and his mind. He’s doing great. I think one-under is probably the worst score we could be at, to be honest with you. He’s playing that good. I’m not saying he should be 10-under at the US Open, I know better than that.”

*****

Well, everyone has Tiger running away from the field. Not so fast. Don’t forget the history of U.S. Opens at Olympic — the home of some of golf’s greatest disappointments, with the underdog coming out on top at the end of the day. I’d love to see Tiger win, but as WUP readers know, I always root for the underdog.

Start reading up on Nicholas Colsaerts!!!

(Getty Images/David Cannon)