Pinehurst, N.C. – Two former Gophers golfers made their U.S. Open debuts on Thursday.
Clayton Rask started fast, and spent an hour with his name on the morning leaderboard. “That was pretty fun,” he said.
Donald Constable finished poorly, and found his name at the bottom of the scoring list.
“Out here, you’re on your own, and if you don’t play well, it can be a lonely walk,” he said. “That’s the way it was today.”
Rask shot a 3-over-par 73. He is tied for 68th with Adam Scott and Jim Furyk, among others.
Constable shot an 82. He’s tied for 155th with Brandon McIver.
After his morning round, Rask sounded relaxed and optimistic. He ranked among the tournament leaders through nine holes in average driving distance at 320 yards, before hitting a 4-iron on the 10th and altering that statistic.
“It’s something I’ve been gifted with, I guess,” he said. “I hit the driver pretty well today. When I didn’t hit it well, it cost me.”
Followed by a large group of friends and family members, Rask birdied the first, and the 18th. On the 18th, he hit his driver long and into the left “rough,” which at Pinehurst No. 2 this week is sand and random grass.
“It was on a little upslope, and I had a little piece of dandelion behind the ball,” he said. “So we just hit a wedge in there. It came out in a good spot, and I made a better putt.”
After his round, Rask went to the practice area to work on his putting speed.
Constable did not practice after his round. Starting at 2:31 p.m., he played until the light was fading, and a triple bogey on his last hole left him feeling philosophical about the game.
“It’s hard,” he said. “It’s a hard golf course. For me, at my first Open, it’s exciting. But being so young and not having a lot of experience, it’s also very nerve-wracking. It’s exciting, but you have a lot of nerves going, and you have tons and tons of people around, more than at a normal tour event.
“It’s hard to be ready for that. My game has been good all week. Today, I got quicker, and these past two weeks, quick has been my nemesis, so getting extra quick was bad.”
Constable, like Rask, had lots of Minnesota friends and family members in the crowd. Faced with an 8:46 a.m. tee time on Friday, he planned to “have a beer,” eat and go to bed. “I hit enough golf balls today,” he said.
Thursday, he became a new member of the large fraternity of golfers discombobulated by a U.S. Open course. Rask was asked to rate the difficulty of Pinehurst on a scale of 1 to 10, and he said, “12.”
Constable said: “It’s just a hard game. It can be a very lonely game. I grew up playing team sports — hockey, baseball — and you always have teammates to back you up. Out here, if you don’t play well, you’re on your own, and sometimes it can be a lonely walk. That’s the way it was today.
“But it’s still fun. I’m 25, I’m playing in the Open. That’s not a bad gig.”