After 8 states, 13 hours of driving and quick stop to sleep a few hours, I made it from Connecticut to Hendersonville, North Carolina, home of the 2018 U.S. Open. The tournament returns to the Par Tee Time course at Champions Golf Center, where it was last held in 2015. I rather liked when the U.S. Open was a bit closer since making the trip down to the Carolina's twice in one year (as the Master's is held in Myrtle Beach) is a bit of a haul, but you do what you need to do for one of the majors. I wouldn't recommend this for people looking to get into the sport (try something closer at home) but hopefully once you get the bug for tournaments you won't think twice about traveling around the country to play. I had briefly considered flying down but for this year I opted to drive, leaving the family at home for the week (for better or worse). The flexibility of being able to throw all your stuff into your own car and not worrying about whether or not the airline will actually deliver your baggage is worth the trade off for a sore butt after a long car ride.
My goal for today upon arriving to the course around 4pm was to hit a few balls and try to reconnect with the course. My last outing down here wasn't one of my best, shooting a rather unimpressive 41.6 average over 8 rounds, a solid 36 shots off the lead, but still in the money. After checking in, I sought out my Connecticut peeps and starting going around the course with Highlighter. As I went around it was great to see a lot of folks I had last seen at the Master's and it was good to hear a few of them already talking up going to the WAGM in June. It's heartening to see the U.S. be involved in the world stage.
It was about a round and a half of hitting some tee shots and figuring out some lines before we just started playing regular rounds. Unfortunately I found out that I picked up right where I left off in terms of hating some of the holes but on others I seemed to have figured out one or two things. I had my notes from last time but I'm not sure how much good that will do after 3 years, even though the course, including the carpeting, still looked in excellent condition. In addition, the weather for this week is very uncertain and there seems to be a high likelihood that not only will we have a damp course from rain overnight but a very good chance that we'll be playing a lot in the rain. In fact it even started raining some as I was wrapping up my last rounds of the evening. This will definitely change how the course plays but luckily it will impact everyone the same. Despite all of that I still started in my note taking so I'd have less to do later in the week.
There's a couple wrinkles in this year's tournament and tournament week. The first big one is that there will actually be a cut after round 6, leaving only the top players who are in contention for the top 29 money spaces playing the last two rounds. I barely made the money the last time at this course and there's a bigger field this time, so one of my goals will definitely be to make the cut. It's an added level of pressure but I think it's good that we are big enough to warrant a cut. The second is that the USPMGA has partnered with the MSOP and the USPMGA will be providing a $1,000 entry to the MSOP as a secondary prize to the U.S. Open champion. While this doesn't have as wide a reach of impact on the field as the cut does, it is great to see multiple putting events partnering up to further the sport in general. There will also be the chance for a secondary prize at the Master's as well. The third is that we will be doing a pro-am tournament Thursday night. It's a great way to get other people introduced to the sport and I get to play as one of the pro's but that does seem to bring some extra pressure of actually playing like a pro! Otherwise this week is like every other U.S. Open in that it's all about grinding out as much practice as you can and then playing against the course when the time comes.
I plan on doing a couple more blogs from the tournament, including my normal predictions and goals before it starts. Here's hoping the weather holds out and the putting is good for everyone!
» U.S. Open 2015 Album