Rookies going for gold at the Olympic Club

6/11/2012 1:24:30 PM
Seven European Tour rookies will be making their debut US Open bows at the Olympic Club this week  (EuropeanTour)
Seven European Tour rookies will be making their debut US Open bows at the Olympic Club this week (EuropeanTour)

Ahead of the second Major Championship of the year, profiles the seven European Tour rookies making their inaugural bow in the 112th staging of the US Open Championship this week, all dreaming of a podium finish at the Olympic Club, San Francisco.

Matthew Baldwin

Who? English 26 year old; graduated to The European Tour for the first time in 2011 after finishing tenth in the 2011 Challenge Tour Rankings after a season that included his maiden victory as a professional at the Fred Olsen Challenge de España; former captain of the England Boys team.

How? Booked his place at the Olympic Club with a birdie at the first hole of a five-man play-off after finishing the Qualifier at Walton Heath Golf Club on six under par with rounds of 67 and 71.
Major moments: Making his Major debut at the Olympic Club.

What they said: “I’m most looking forward to the experience really; it’s my first Major so I’m going to go and have some fun and just enjoy the experience. It’s going to be tough so I’m just going to see what happens, it’s my intention to go there and play well but there are obviously going to be situations I’m not used to so I’m just going to enjoy it and have a good week.”

Grégory Bourdy

Who? French 30 year old; three times a European Tour Champion in consecutive years with victory at the 2007 Mallorca Classic, 2008 Open de Portugal and the 2009 UBS Hong Kong Open, with two near misses last year in runner-up finishes at the Malaysian Open and Wales Open.

How? A rollercoaster ride of bogeys and birdies in the Qualifier at Walton Heath resulted in rounds of 67 and 70 for a total of seven under par, two behind qualifying victors Alex Noren and Marc Warren, and thus booking the Frenchman a seat on the plane to The Golden State.

Major moments: The US Open in San Francisco will mark his sixth appearance in a Major Championship, having competed in three Open Championships and two US PGAs, making the cut in four with his best finish coming in the form of a tied 39th finish in the 2008 Open at Royal Birkdale.

What they said: “I have played three Open Championships and two US PGAs but this will be my first US Open so it’s exciting. I’ve not had the best year so far so it will be great for my confidence and I will go there with determination.”

George Coetzee

Who? South African 25 year old; four times a winner on his native Sunshine Tour and came very close to a first European Tour title with a tied second finish at the Johnnie Walker Championship last year after succumbing to Thomas Bjorn in a five-man play-off at Gleneagles; further four top three finishes in 2011 on the way to a career-best 26th place finish in The Race to Dubai; four top tens already in 12 starts in 2012, missing the cut only twice.

How? Faced a nervous wait at Walton Heath after following a superb morning 66 with a more modest 71 in the afternoon, but needn’t have worried as his seven under par total gave him a share of third and a maiden US Open berth.

Major moments: Eventually finished 15th in an excellent Major Championship debut at last year’s Open Championship in Royal St George’s, making the cut with consecutive rounds of 69 to place in the top ten going into the weekend.

What they said: “There are those four events that I care most about and this is one of them. I’ve only played in The Open Championship once and although I wouldn’t say that just playing the US Open is a dream come true it is a start and a chance.”

Branden Grace

Who? South African 24 year old; made a formidable start to the 2012 season after coming through the 2011 European Tour Qualifying School, winning the Joburg Open and Volvo Golf Champions in back-to-back weeks in January before making it a hat-trick of titles at the Volvo China Open in April.

How? Gained one of the last exemption spots at the Olympic Club after placing in the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking (54th) on the Monday of US Open week.

Major moments: Made an impressive first showing in his one and only previous Major experience at the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry, finishing in a tie for 43rd after rounds of 67-72-73-75 on the Ailsa Course.

What they said: “What a week it’s going to be, I just can’t wait to get out there!”

Peter Lawrie

Who? Irish 38 year old; won his first European Tour title at the 2008 Open de España after defeating home favourite Ignacio Garrido in a play-off; had his finest season on The European Tour in 2010, amassing two top three finishes plus a further six top tens en route to a career-best 36th place finish on The Race to Dubai.

How? Like Baldwin, finished on six under par in the Qualifier at Walton Heath, winning his place in the US Open field with a par at the second play-off hole as Korea’s Sihwan Kim dropped out.

Major moments: Missed the cut in his only previous appearance in a Major at The 2005 Open Championship at St. Andrews after rounds of 74 and 78 on the Old Course as Tiger Woods romped to victory.

What they said: “I’m delighted to be going to the US Open. I’ve only ever played in one Open, the Open Championship, and I’ve never played golf professionally in America so it’s something I look forward to. Going on previous US Opens, if you can hit it pretty straight you’ll score okay and that’s pretty much my game: hit it straight, hit a lot of greens in regulation and try and hole a few putts, then see what happens.”

Lee Slattery

Who? English 33 year old; had a breakthrough year in 2011 in recording his first European Tour victory at the Bankia Madrid Masters along with three further top ten finishes; twice a winner on the Challenge Tour.

How? Finished alongside fellow US Open debutants Bourdy and Coetzee in the tie for third – two shots back – in the Qualifier at Walton Heath after backing up a morning 71 with a superb six under par 66 in the afternoon.

Major moments: Made his one previous Major appearance at The 2006 Open Championship at Hoylake and finished in a tie for 26th after rounds of 69-72-71-72.

What they said: “To me it’s everything. I’ve only played one Major, a local Major for me at Hoylake, being from Liverpool it was quite close and that was a great week and such a buzz. So I’m really looking forward to experiencing that feeling again.”

Marc Warren

Who? Scottish 31 year old; 2005 Challenge Tour Number One; won the Nordea Masters in his debut season on The European Tour in 2006 en route to winning the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award; claimed a second Tour title the following year at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles before partnering Colin Montgomerie to a Scottish victory at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in November 2007.

How? Finished top of the pile alongside Sweden’s Alex Noren in the Qualifier at Walton Heath after an afternoon round of 65 on the New Course – the lowest of the day – helped him cruise through on nine under par, two shots clear of their nearest rivals.

Major moments: Making his Major debut at the Olympic Club.

What they said: “It’ll be my Major debut, so I can’t wait to get out there. I think I’ll need to get a new lob wedge with new grooves in the bag, because the greens are going to be very firm and the rough’s going to be up. I spoke to Gareth Maybin last week, and he told me the course is pretty brutal. But I’m really looking forward to it. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the experience, and if I can take a good mindset I had today into the tournament, hopefully I can give a good account of myself.”