PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF. – Charlie Danielson’s 1-over-par 72 in Thursday’s first round of the 119th U.S. Open left him tied with Phil Mickelson, among others.
It also reminded him once again about golf’s many mysteries.
Three years after he shot an opening 78 at murderous Oakmont in his only other U.S. Open, Danielson, a Canadian Tour player and former Illinois All-America from Osceola, Wis., walked off Pebble Beach’s iconic 18th green after a memorable walk along the Pacific Ocean that puzzled him nonetheless.
“It was a weird day,” he said.
He started well, making birdie on the fifth and sixth holes to get to 2 under par even though he hadn’t struck the ball well. Then, after consecutive bogeys at Pebble Beach’s tough 8th, 9th and 10th holes, he hit it “great” coming home on the back nine but didn’t make any putts.
“It was a little bit of both worlds,” he said. “But overall, I’m happy with the day.”
It always helps when you hole out a greenside bunker shot on one bounce, as he did at the par-3 fifth hole for a birdie. Then he made another birdie on the par-5 sixth that climbs the ocean cliffs.
That bunker shot came off what Danielson called a “severe upslope” — a favorable spot for shots out of the sand — that left his caddie, Andrew Martinez, thinking big.
“He looked at me and said, ‘We can make this one,’ ” Danielson said.
So he did. His 13-yard shot took one hop, hit off the flagstick and dropped into hole.
His two birdies came back-to-back, as did his bogeys did back-to-back-to-back as he completed his front nine and turned for home.
“Eight, nine, 10 are brutal holes,” he said. “You hope to make a few pars there. I look to do that tomorrow because they got the best of me today.”
He missed a 5 ½ foot putt for birdie at the closing 18th hole and finished the back nine with eight consecutive pars that didn’t leave him thinking what might have been with that final putt.
“It’s always tough making a putt on 18 because you start maybe thinking about the results a little,” Danielson said. “Obviously, it would have been nice to have, but I also made a good putt the hole before. It all evens out.”
He shot 78-81 as an amateur in his only other U.S. Open three years ago, a total of 18 over par. This time, he has placed himself in prime position to make Friday’s cut even though he has missed most of the last year because of knee surgery.
“I’m in better shape, and I’m continuing to learn about my game,” Danielson said. “I just feel like I can compete at a little higher level.”
They will be pulling hard for him Friday at Osceola’s Krooked Kreek course where he grew up playing the game. If he plays this weekend, he will be eligible for Sunday’s tournament there in which participants draft a U.S. Open player with whom they combine scores.
He would likely be a top-10 pick.
“Sounds like a fun little deal,” Danielson said.
Van Rooyen at even par
Maybe it says something about former Gophers golfer Erik van Rooyen’s major championship acclimation that he shot an even-par 71 and called himself “disappointed.”
He is tied for 40th after he tied for 17th at last summer’s British Open and tied for eighth at last month’s PGA Championship.
He made what he called “two silly mistakes” that led to double bogeys at the 10th and 15th holes but still finished where he started, even par.
“I hit the ball really nicely,” said van Rooyen, who played for the Gophers from 2009 to 2013 and won the 2012 Minnesota State Amateur. “I thought I played better than that, but it is the U.S. Open.”
PGA Tour player Tom Hoge of Fargo, N.D., shot a 71 as well.