I hope to remember this amazing experience as a positive one, and not one that ended in a missed cut. I never like listening to excuses as to why players don’t perform their best, so I am not going to either. Playing in an Open is all about positioning off the tee, and then accurate shots into the correct portion of the greens. I was not able to accurately drive the ball, followed by too many loose iron shots, especially on the par three holes.
My first tee shot on #10 at 2:19 on Thursday was AWESOME, as my heart was pounding, I was able to somehow stripe a 19 degree rescue down the middle, that left me an awkward short shot from 70 yards to a front pin. But got that first par under my belt and felt pretty good until I hit a very bad bogey stretch.
Day two started out glorious with a ripper down the middle of #1, a three medal to 8 feet for eagle. Was lucky to walk off with birdie as I ripped the putt well past the hole, and unlike DJ, was able to make the come backer. I would love to know what Dj’s pulse rate was when standing over that 4 footer to tie Jordan? I am sure that he will never forget that, even if he ends up winning 5 majors in his career.
What is crazy about golf, are the different levels of pressure, you could be playing in a club event and be nervous out of your mind, as well as an amateur playing in the US Open teeing off in front of thousands of people. What;s tough about this sport is starting from a still position and going into motion. It requires great tempo, balance and technique to do it under the gun. I was thrilled to hit the fairway on both of my opening tee shots, but I certainly missed way to many fairways, especially on the tougher holes.
Talking to Tom Watson at breakfast and then Bernhard Langer at lunch, is what makes this event for players like me, we mostly get to watch these mega talents on TV. They are engaging, and very kind with their time and sincere interest in what is being discussed (especially Langer) Some of the other guys, a few notches below, are a bit arrogant, and are not as approachable. I leave those names off the blog for now. But at the end of the day, these are great guys, and what impressed me most was when I said hello to Kenny Perry on the putting green, and told him I have been a fan of his for 30 years, and was devastated when he and Tom Watson in the same year missed winning the Masters, and British Open in the same year. He spoke to me for 5 minutes, was not in a hurry and was about as nice a man as you would expect him to be from what you see through the media.
THE COURSE- AMAZING what these guys can shoot with rough as long as I’ve ever seen anywhere. This being my 28th USGA event, I have never seen the rough this tough in any other event I’ve played or witnessed. The course set up was VERY fair, with many of the tougher holes being played a tee up. Yesterday on #16 I was actually able to hit an 8 iron into this very demanding hole over water. My finish on 18 I will never forget, I dead blocked my drive into the grand stands on the right, but drew a very good lie. I had a tree in front of me, and 195 to cover the hazard short of the green. Had about 200 people watching me, so I mentioned to them that I was sure they would rather see me go for it. Of course they cheered me on to do something very unwise, as if I was at or near the cut line, I would have taken the safe route and layed up of the hazard short of the 18th green. But instead I rifled a 4 iron that stayed under the tree and just cleared the water part of the hazard, even though I was still in the hazard I had a good lie, and flipped a high 60 degree sand wedge shot to 4 feet, made par, and walked off with a smile on my face.
Playing in an event like this is like no other drug, you want to have another chance, another shot at perhaps making the cut and seeing what its like to play on the weekend. In my 6 professional majors I’ve played in (2 US Opens, 4 British Opens) I’ve been fortunate to have made 3 cuts, and have won 2 Silver Medals in the British as low amateur. But nothing like my pal Chip Lutz that right now is on a three in a row streak winning the Silver Medal in the British Senior Open, and again is exempt into this years event at the amazing Sunningdale. I will board a plane on July 14th, arrive in London on July 15th, and do everything I can to qualify on July 20th for the British Senior Open at Sunningdale, which is the site of my first major I qualified for in 2009, when I turned 50.
I guess this is all about chasing a dream, a dream to be playing alongside the best 50+ year old players in the world. But everyday, more and more talent gets added to the pool. At Del Paso, I ran into my old pal Scott McCarron, who turns 50 in July and will debut in the British Senior Open at Sunningdale. Scott in his career won 3 times on the PGA tour, 6 runner up finishes, made over $12,600,000 in prize money. He still hits it VERY long, and I’m sure he’s licking his chops to get out there with the guys he played with many years ago. But anyone that thinks they are going to step in am dominate these older guys is fooling himself. I can assure you that guys like Langer and others have not slipped much from their younger days.
I’ve got two more events before I depart to London in search of major #7, I head down to the Monterey City for a great three day event at Del Monte, and then the NCGA stroke play at the somewhat improved Poppy Hills. never the less, hard to go from the Open at Del Paso, back to NCGA events. More hard work ahead to get back into one of these amazing events. More on the Side Saddle putting coming soon.