PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF. – If the USGA announces Charlie Danielson’s home course when he steps to Pebble Beach’s first tee Thursday at the 119th U.S. Open, you’d half expect a character named Tin Cup instead.
It’s called Krooked Kreek, with two K’s.
“I’m sure they’ll just say I’m from Osceola, Wisconsin,” Danielson said. “But that’s the course I grew up playing.”
It’s a small-town course like so many others tucked into the pines and around ponds — 6,383 yards, par 72 from the tips and $25 to walk on weekdays.
It’s also where Danielson last month broke his own scoring record when he shot a 59 — surpassing his records of 64 and then 63 — on his road back from knee surgery last summer.
“It was mine already, but to shoot in the 50s is pretty cool,” he said.
At 6 feet 5 and age 25, he has come a million miles to play in his second U.S. Open, this one at iconic Pebble Beach.
It’s a future almost conceivable the first time high school buddies Danielson and Logan Schrock played Krooked Kreek together. Danielson made like Bobby Jones in the 1930 U.S. Open at Interlachen in Edina, skipping a 150-yard shot out of the rough across a pond and onto the green after telling Schrock to watch this.
“That’s basically the first time I played with him and the first time I realized he could do whatever he wanted with a golf ball,” said Schrock, a future teammate and now Krooked Kreek’s pro.
On Monday, Danielson struck range balls with 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed on his right, big bomber Billy Horschel on his left and Pebble Beach’s 1992 U.S. Open champion Tom Kite looking on from behind.
“Your first time around, you definitely want to take it all in,” Danielson said. “But it’s my second go-round at an Open and it’s all about me and the course right now.”
A couple of hours before that, he plucked a peg from the teeing ground during a nine-hole practice round, looked up and saw the Pacific Ocean all along Pebble Beach’s closing 18th hole before him.
“It’s everything you see on TV and more,” Danielson said. “It’s pretty breathtaking out there.”
He’s a four-time All-America and the 2016 Big Ten Player of the Year at mighty Illinois who already has played around the world, from the Canadian Web.com and PGA tours to Europe and Latin America. Now he has made his second U.S. Open, three years after he qualified to play murderous Oakmont, in just his first month back to competition.
He is on the inaugural 3M Open’s radar for a sponsor’s exemption next month in Blaine.
“I’ve been all around,” he said.
This time, he moved on through qualifiers in Chaska and Dallas (in a playoff) still not fully recovered after a Milwaukee surgeon placed implants over holes in his knee cartilage. He’d already had two knee surgeries when he was in middle school.
“Just overuse, grew fast and I’m a tall guy,” Danielson said. “I was born with not-so-great knees.”
He underwent surgery last July 3 and spent the ensuing months on his parents’ couch in Osceola — on the St. Croix River about an hour’s drive northeast of Minneapolis — or rehabbing in Hudson, Wis.
“I’ve been through a lot,” said Danielson, whose sisters Casey and Lindsay won state prep titles, too, and pl>ayed at Stanford and Wisconsin respectively.
“I’m so thankful I have so many great people — my family, my friends — in my corner. I spent a lot of time reflecting. To get back out there on the PGA Tour so soon is pretty rewarding.”
Danielson missed the cut at Oakmont in 2016. Schrock is pulling for his pal to play on the weekend this time so he’s eligible a draft in a Sunday tournament at Krooked Kreek, about which Schrock says, “I like to call it a bar that has a golf course attached.”
Each participant drafts a U. S. Open player to combine with his or her score.
“He might be a Top 10 pick,” Schrock said, “just for sentimental reasons.”