Pinehurst, N.C. – Clayton Rask and his entourage were among the last people on Pinehurst No. 2 on Friday night.
Marshals had issued a weather warning. He couldn’t be sure he would finish the round. With two holes to go, he knew that one bogey might cause him to miss the cut in his first U.S. Open.
On the eighth hole — his 17th of the day, because he teed off on No. 10 — he watched his drive kick off the fairway and land behind a tuft of grass. His next shot rolled into a gully, coming to rest on a downslope near the green. It was from that location that John Daly once famously struck a shot that had rolled back to his feet, then swore off ever playing in a U.S. Open again.
“It was a 100-to-1 shot,” said his caddie, Eric Chiles.
Rask, the Minnesota native and former Gopher, pulled out a 60-degree wedge and clipped a shot to a pin he couldn’t see. Later, he would hear that his ball lipped out. He made a 5-footer to save par, then birdied the ninth hole, giving him a 71 in the second round of the U.S. Open, a 4-over-par total, and a weekend tee time in a rather exclusive club.
He’ll tee off at 9:06 a.m. Twin Cities time Saturday. Rask has yet to make it onto the PGA Tour, but he will play the weekend in a tournament that prides itself on providing the toughest test in golf.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Rask said. “But it’s a great feeling, and a little icing on the cake knowing that I’ve been working on this for so long. I see guys out here that I know, and I know I can play with them. This was my chance, and I wasn’t going to let it slip away without a fight.”
He finished both rounds with a birdie.
“That’s been one of the things I’ve had trouble with in the past, is finishing a round,” he said.
As Martin Kaymer took a six-shot lead, two former Gophers demonstrated how the U.S. Open can be uplifting or disheartening, depending on where your tee shots land.
In the morning, Donald Constable followed his first-round 81 with a 73, improving dramatically but missing the cut.
“It’s a big learning experience,” Constable said. “I always talk about the fact that I can get better every day, and in turn I can get better every year. This is another stepping stone. You know, 99 percent of the golfers in the world dream of what I’m doing this week, and I’m doing it at the age of 25.
“Today I showed myself that I can play out here. This is very different than an average tour event. It’s the Open.”
Because it’s the Open, Rask was able to drive all night after a Canadian PGA Tour event to qualify in Oregon. He found a host family, and rounded up his fiancée, family and friends.
Rask might be the first pro golfer to get an endorsement deal from a company that makes red sauce.
“We’ve eaten lots of spaghetti,” he said. “That’s been our carbo-loading.”
His host family in Pinehurst provided a pool table and pasta. Chiles, who apparently does not consider Rask emotionally fragile, beat him in pool before Round 2.
“Eric Chiles is a pool shark,” Rask said. “I want that in the Star Tribune.”
And Rask may have trouble selling himself as a five-handicap at his home course, Riverwood National.
Now that he’s on the big stage, isn’t it time to take a bow?
“Always, the goal is to win,” he said. “Worst-case scenario is that you’ve got to make the cut. Then you never know what you can do on the weekend. Go out and shoot 4 under tomorrow, and something crazy on Sunday, and you never know where you’re going to end up.”
A clutch chip and two clutch putts cinched his weekend plans.
“Time to go eat some spaghetti and hydrate,” he said. “We get to come back and do it all again tomorrow.’’
Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is