Day one of the 112th U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, California has come to a close. Of course you are watching if you consider yourself a golf fan, and most casual sports fan will keep an eye on the leader board just in case a little known golfer named Tiger Woods is near the top on Sunday. However, I’m here to offer you three “off the beaten path” story lines that you can sink your teeth into (in no particular order).
ESPN has already done a special piece on him, so i guess its not so far off the beaten path. But Andy Zhang is a 14 year old, which makes him the youngest player in the history of the U.S. Open. He had a rough front nine on his first day, as he started with a triple bogey followed by a double bogey and ended his first nine holes 8 over par. However on the back nine he shot just 1 over par, ending his day with a birdie on 18. Despite his troubles, he’s not even on the bottom of the leader board and shares the same score with world number one Luke Donald (yes, that’s how tough this course is)*. Unfortunately, Zhang is unlikely to make the cut (though crazier things have happened); however, if you get the opportunity to watch him play Friday it will be well worth it. Just think of what you were doing at 14? My athletic prowess at the ripe age of 14 was being a starting wide receiver and kicker on the McLean High School freshman football team (a team that went 1-7). We are always looking for the next big thing, and this might be your first glimpse at a future major winner.
*And how bad Luke Donald is in Majors, especially the U.S. Open.
If you have looked at the leader board after day one, you probably asked yourself “Who the Hell is Michael Thompson?” Well Michael Thompson is a PGA golfer who just started playing on the tour last year. He has never won and his best finish has been third at the McGladrey Classic in 2011. He is a golfer who has shown promise, as he played in both the Masters and U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 as an Amateur. At Torrey Pines he finished as the low amateur in 28th place, though likely no one noticed due to the epic victory by Tiger Woods with essentially one healthy leg. After that he was the top ranked amateur in the world for a week, and then he went pro.
Today on the course he shot -4, where only 5 other people were under par (all at -1). And he didn’t do by not making mistakes, but rather by dominating holes (He ended the day with 7 birdies). Keeping up this pace is likely impossibly, but what a great story it would be if Michael Thompson’s first tour win was the U.S. Open, often considered the toughest test in golf. He may be ahead of everyone, but if you like an underdog this is the guy to root for.
Looking for inspiration? You have found it. Casey Martin is playing in his second U.S. Open. The only other time he played was early in his career in 1998 (when the Open was also at Olympic). Martin has a terrible birth defect known as Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome (KTS), which limits circulation in his right leg and has severely limited his ability to walk. This lead to controversy in his early pro career as the PGA and him went to court over his right to a golf cart (which he inevitably won). He only played one full year on tour (2000) and eventually exited golf as a player and became the golf coach at the University of Oregon. He decided to give his playing career another shot as he put his skills to the test at a regional qualifying event.
Martin shot +4 today, which despite being 8 back, could mean he’s still got a shot (though a long one). What it does mean is he’s got a good chance of making the cut if he plays well again tomorrow. The most inspirational moment of day one was watching him walk up the hill onto the 18th green, an image that represented the overcoming of his defect. Martin shows that if you set your mind to accomplish a goal, you can achieve just about anything. The feel good story of this week will be Casey Martin, especially if he can make it through Sunday (even better if he’s in contention). Make sure to watch him as he proves to the world to never give up on your dreams.
Regardless of why you chose to watch, this should be another fantastic U.S. Open (as they always seem to be).
Thanks for reading and let me know what you think. Also follow me on Twitter @Alex_Rosenbaum