As the excitement and anticipation to the 112th US Open builds, we bring you a few snippets from the Olympic Club in San Francisco...
McIlroy hits the right pitch
Rory McIlroy is in the spotlight as defending champion this week and he was the star of the baseball last night as he threw the ceremonial first pitch at the AT&T Park ahead of the game between the San Francisco Giants and the Houston Astros. Plenty of cheers around the stadium as Rory made his way to the mound and his pitch was a good effort.
“I’m pretty pleased with my throw, didn’t get any boos, so got to be happy with that,” he said as he made his way back towards the dugout. “It’s unbelievable being here, a great honour and not something that comes your way every day. It’s been a fantastic opportunity. I was pretty nervous but somehow managed to throw it out ok. It’s been a great experience here.”
And to mark the occasion the Giants have made a miniature McIlroy bobble head. “I think it's maybe better looking than me, which is a good thing,” said the World Number Two. Not so sure Rors.
Toughest opening six…..
They are touting the opening stretch as the toughest first six holes in Major Championship history and having just walked them, I’m inclined to agree. An opening par four of 520 yards, the third longest par four in US Open history, is a pretty daunting start and it doesn’t get much easier after that. The USGA have added distance to the second, third, fifth and sixth holes. The fact they are all on the side of the hill with doglegs one way and slopes the other adds to the challenge. And to be honest it doesn’t get much easier after that. The eighth is 60 yards longer then in 1998, the last time the US Open was here, and now measures a nice 200 yards. And as for the 16th hole, at 670 yards the longest par five in US Open history is a monster. It takes long enough just to walk it. Don’t expect 16 under to win this year!
A look back…
Jack Fleck has been here at Olympic Club this week entertaining everyone with his recollections of his 1955 US Open victory over the great Ben Hogan. Now aged 91, Fleck is the oldest living US Open Champion, and his triumph over Hogan remains one of the great upsets of Major Championship golf. Everyone thought Hogan had claimed a record fifth US Open title, and NBC even declared Hogan the winner before they went off air. Trouble was, nobody told Fleck, who promptly birdied two of the last four holes to tie Hogan. The following day, he won the 18 hole play-off by three strokes to defeat his idol. The game has changed a lot since then, not least in the players' approach to practice. “I played two and a half rounds on Sunday, I played two and a half rounds on Monday, I played two and a half rounds on Tuesday, and I only played 36 holes on Wednesday!” Fleck explained. And that was before the tournament had even started...
New kid on the block….
While a 91 year old was looking back, a 14 year has been looking forward this week as Andy Zhang got to grips with becoming the youngest player to compete in the US Open after a late call-up following Paul Casey’s withdrawal. Florida based Zhang, who moved to the US aged ten, took part in a practice round with Masters Champion Bubba Watson yesterday. “I have never played in front of a crowd this big,” he said. “I was shaking on the first tee and I guess I will get used to it. It feels like a dream.”
Zhang, 14 and six months tomorrow, is not the youngest in Major history though – that honour stays with Young Tom Morris, who first played in The Open aged 14 years and four months in 1865. Zhang is also the seventh youngest to tee up in a European Tour event. Here’s a list of those younger.
Guan Tianlang - 13 & 177 days, Volvo China Open, 2012
Shih-kai Lo - 13 & 280 days, Omega Hong Kong Open, 2003
Pedro Figueiredo - 13 & 291 days, Estoril Open de Portugal Caixa Geral de Depositos, 2005
Robin Goger - 14 & 108 days, Austrian Golf Open, 2009
Vincent Abel- 14 & 164 days, Austrian Golf Open, 2009
Zhang Jin - 14 & 182 days, Volvo China Open, 2010
Andy Zhang - 14 & 183 days, US Open Championship, 2012
Every US Open course sparks plenty of debate, and the speed of the greens is always a talking point. They look like running 14’ – 14.5 on the stimpmeter, and will be a decisive factor in the 112th staging of the US Open. So far, Rafa Cabrera-Bello’s description of the putting surfaces is the best we have come across. The Spaniard tweeted: “Two practice rounds done at @theolympicclub for the @usopengolf...course is tough, greens won't hold a javelin!”