First and foremost, congratulations to Brooks Koepka on the win. Going back-to-back in the same major is some feat, and hopefully people start paying a lot more attention to one of the most somehow-still-underrated players on tour.
I’m not too keen on watching golf. In fact, I think it’s kind of boring. I’ll watch the last day of any of the four Majors, but won’t knock myself out for the other three days or any other tournaments during the year. That being said…
The 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills was one of the best experiences of my life.
Everything about it I loved. The atmosphere. The grounds. The golf. Everything was perfect. I went for the Tuesday practice round, and the first round on Thursday, and both were great in their own respective aspects.
Practice Round — Tuesday
I got to the practice round at about 11 on Tuesday. There were buses running that dropped us off right at gate 7, from which we made our way alongside the 12th fairway. After staying there for about 5 minutes, we made our way to the Fan Zone and got some gear. The merch tent was MASSIVE. This thing could’ve easily fit a hockey rink if not two.
After the merch tent, the rest of my family went to get food, while I stuck around the practice green. Keegan Bradley and Justin Thomas were the two most marquee names warming up out there. Joe Buck also came out and talked to some of the guys on the green.
What was the most interesting to me was how long these guys hit the same exact shot over and over again. Bradley literally did not move for a half hour. Same putt. Over and over. And I thought that my 10 minute warmup before a round was a lot…
After watching some warmups, I decided to try my luck with some autographs in the “designated autograph area.” News flash: don’t go there – it doesn’t work. I stood there for a half hour, no dice. However, I started walking over to the chute between the green, driving range, and the first tee, and I got Ted Potter, Patrick Cantlay, and one other golfer to sign my hat. After that, I sprinted up to the top of the grandstand to watch Spieth’s group tee off. Loooooooots of people were following him, as to be expected.
Once he wrapped up on the first, he signed autographs for every single person down the line. I was on the opposite site, so I unfortunately didn’t catch him there. But, I took a chance that he’d do the same thing on later holes, so I made my way to the chute between 3 and 4, caught up with my family, and waited. A bunch more groups came through, all of them signing for us.
I told my 7-year-old cousin that there was a really good chance Spieth would sign for us, so I told him what to say to him because he’s 7 years old; he doesn’t know what to say there. An amateur by the name of Ryan Lumsden had just finished the hole, and made his way over to us. My cousin goes, “Mr. Spieth, can you please sign my ball?” Lumsden laughed and said, “Oh no buddy I wish, that boy can play.” Everyone had a good laugh about it, he signed for all of us, and went on his way – seemed like a really nice dude. Eventually Spieth rolled through, and, well…
Easily one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me. I thanked him for signing, wished him luck, he thanked me, and made his way down the line. After Spieth signed, we stuck around 3 for a bit longer, then headed home.
My mom argues that the practice round days are the best days to attend a golf tournament, and frankly, she’s right. It’s less crowded and more relaxed. While the golf may not be as good, and some marquee names may not go off, it’s much more laid-back and interactive. My story with Lumsden couldn’t have happened during a real round.
Round One — Thursday
Contrary to Tuesday, I wanted to get there early on Thursday. Spieth, Mickelson, and McIlroy went off at 8, with Rickie’s group just behind them, all teeing off on 10. On the front 9, Jason Day, Bubba Watson, and Brooks Koepka made up a very strong group as well. I found a spot on the fairway of 10 to watch Jordan’s group tee off.
After that, I made my way to the grandstand to watch Fowler, Leishman, and Matsuyama hit their tee balls.
Once that group wrapped up, I got myself some food, and just parked myself at the 18th grandstand. In my opinion, it was the best spot on the course. From the top, you could see 18, 9, 14, 16, and 17. Lots and lots of golf. A few minutes after I got there, Jordan’s group went off of 14, so I saw them hit their tee balls and their shots from the fescue (which by the way is just about impossible to hit out of but hey, they are pros after all).
From there, I basically just sat in the front row on 18 and waited for the power groups to roll through. As it got closer and closer to Spieth’s arrival, the grandstand got more and more packed until they got there. Jordan hit a nice birdie putt on 18, a bright spot for him in a round that didn’t provide many. It was surprising; he was the only one to hit his putt on 18 in one stroke, regardless of where it was on the green.
Following Jordan was Rickie’s group, so I stuck around for them, before meeting up with my family members who had just arrived.
Once I caught up with them, I took them up to the top of 18, where we stayed for over an hour solely because you could see so much. Pretty much everywhere you turned your head up there, there was golf. Day’s group came through, as well as Oosthuezin’s.
Once Spieth, Mickelson, and McIlroy wrapped up their round on 9, we went to get some food over by the Trophy Club. At about that time, Tiger, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Thomas teed off on one. The crowds around that group were a circus act. It was absurd. I had to go three holes ahead of them just so I could get a spot in the front row. Fortunately, I was able to see them tee off on four.
Once done with four, I went to the 6th green to see Sergio Garcia, and then wait for Tiger. Dustin Johnson’s tee shot went into the fescue, and half the golf course was in a tiny area looking for the ball. It was funny to watch from far away; a groundskeeper also told me that the grass over there wasn’t even the thickest on the course – imagine anything worse than that…
After Tiger went, the entire hole cleared. Lumsden, the amateur I mentioned earlier, was a few groups back, so I stuck around to watch him play. He did well; made par on 6 and 7, and hit an absolute bazooka off of the 8th tee. I had a brief chat with his mother as well; I told her the story from Tuesday, and said we were all rooting for him, to which she was very appreciative of.
After Lumsden, I decided to head to the bus. However, I found out that Tiger’s group was on either the 10th or 11th, so I stayed until they went through, and I’m glad I did. Justin Thomas hit a BEAUTIFUL approach and stuck it to within inches of the hole. The gallery thought it was going in, and reacted as such – was a great shot. I then headed out once they went to 13.
For anyone that has the slightest interest in golf, whether it be playing or watching, go to a tournament. If possible, go to a major. It’s interactive, fun, and a great way to experience the game in a completely different way. I would do this again in two seconds. Hopefully the next one I go to has more than one player shooting under par…
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