PINEHURST, N.C. – Saturday, Clayton Rask showed off his “eagle dance.” He practiced his “birdie dance.” And he was forced to work on his bogey shrug.
Pinehurst No. 2 turned rude in Round 3 of the U.S. Open. Rask, the Otsego native and former Gopher, played the two par 5s in a combined 3 under, but otherwise was unhappy with his ball-striking as he shot a 77, leaving him in a tie for 57th entering Sunday’s final round.
He had his moments, though.
He hit a mammoth drive on the par-5 fifth and made the eagle putt. A few people in his growing entourage flapped their arms. Rask spotted them and flapped back.
“Oh, yeah, we’ve got the eagle dance, we’ve got the birdie dance,” Rask said. “It was a fun day.”
A couple of seconds later, he said, “It was a tough day. Out here, if you’re not hitting it well, the course will give you trouble, and that’s what I got.”
Fun day? Tough day? Both are true given Rask’s reverence for the U.S. Open and his ambition of making it to the PGA Tour.
When he was 7, he met Payne Stewart at the U.S. Open held at Hazeltine National. After finishing his round early Saturday afternoon, he planned to visit Stewart’s statue at Pinehurst.
“I’ve been playing since I was 1½,” he said. “I grew up watching Payne Stewart, and grew up wearing the knickers. I met him in ’91 wearing knickers at the Open, when he was at Hazeltine.
“That’s one of those things that stuck with me, being 7 years old. I’ve always looked up to the guys who are out here, and it’s always been my dream to be out here.”
Qualifying for the U.S. Open has only made tour life more tantalizing. He’s marrying his fiancée, Gina Bishop, on Oct. 24. He knows that playing the Canadian PGA Tour isn’t ideal for a family man.
“I have dreams about having a family,” he said. “We could always have a really good life, and find a way to get out here and play and do it that way.
“I definitely see myself trying to play [long-term.] I don’t see myself putting them in the closet any time soon.”
Bishop is walking the course at Pinehurst, leading cheers this week.
“She’s extremely supportive,” he said. “She’s out here cheering me on left and right. Ever since meeting her, she’s pushed me even harder than I’ve pushed myself. She’s been a blessing.”
He wasn’t blessed with the best breaks Saturday. On No. 3, his approach went over the green and landed on a sandy cart path that was not defined as a cart path. He said his ball came to rest in a heel print, and his chip rolled back off the green, leading to a bogey.
His length off the tee gave him chances, though. As of mid-Saturday afternoon, he ranked 10th in the tournament in driving distance, at an average of 312 yards, even though he sometimes hits irons on holes that are being measured for the statistic.
“Honestly, I didn’t think it was that tough out there — I just hit it bad,” he said. “It’s tough here when you don’t hit it in the right spots. The greens are definitely firming up. It’s not like yesterday or the day before where you could throw one in there and it would stick a little bit.
“With the wind changing from the south to the north, it definitely changed the layout of it. It’s tough. I’m not saying it was playing easy. It was definitely the toughest I’ve ever played. But I felt like I could have played better. Bad day.”
Rask planned to spend the rest of the day practicing, touring Pinehurst and spending time with his supporters.
“The group keeps growing,” he said. “Last night we went to dinner and we met some more people from Minnesota. All over the course, you hear Minnesota cheers, and ‘Go Gophers.’
“I’m still having fun.”