Itís finally here Ė the first day of the 2017 U.S. Open. Time to put all that practice to work. I arrived at the course around 7am and a great many of the players were already there practicing. I was surprised to see how good a condition the course was in after last nightís storm but in talking with John Forbes (who is co-running the tournament) he mentioned the grounds crew as out there cleaning up early this morning. Kudos to them on doing an amazing job. I also was pleasantly surprised to see my mug on the giant board with some of the best players of the tournament. Not sure I will ever get that level of infamy again until I get to winning a major tournament. I practiced a few holes where I wanted to try my best to get some aces but didnít overwork myself. I felt I had what I needed to get the tournament started.
At around 8:30 everyone came in for the opening ceremonies. They went all out this time. We had the National Anthem, a few speeches, a ribbon cutting ceremony by the Mayor and even a call for riders (minigolfers) up from the gentlemen who does the commands at the neighboring track. What a way to bring an extra level of flair to this tournament. I was in one of the early pairings so I had to be ready to go at the start. Of course I was a bit nervous being on the first hole with so many people still around watching but I made a respectable two and kicked off the first round. I was even pretty happy when I made a nice 2 on hole two which is one of the most difficult on the course. You have to dogleg it left around a rock and there is a lot in play including bricks and cracks, slopes, the rock itself, etc. Sometimes you walk away with a 3 from that hole and donít feel so bad. Unfortunately, the rest of the 1st round sucked. I shot a 41 which was not inline with my ďkeep it under 40 mantra.Ē I think it was just the opening round jitters as my next two rounds were a 36 and a 38 which brought me right back to around the 38 average I was seeking.
Luckily the sun stayed away for most of the morning so it wasnít nearly as hot as it could have been. It picked up a bit in the afternoon but all in all it felt better than the past two days of practice. However, the theme of today was slow rounds. With over 50 people competing and us playing in pairs the first 3 rounds there was a lot of backup on the course, especially around holes 12-14 (the ďAmen cornerĒ of the course). Even in the afternoon when we were mostly in threesomes (except for me), there was considerable backup and the rounds seem to take, in total, about an hour or two more than expected. I wasnít a bit fan of it because it seemed to mess with the pace of my play but when you look at my scores, perhaps I benefited from the slower play.
After the morning rounds I was 22nd, which was just above the 50% mark in the field and just to the good of the paying line (at 30th place). In the afternoon I was paired with Libuse Prokopova (Oliviaís mom) and my scores really dropped, finishing a total of 2 over the tournament par for the 3 rounds. Just prior to the round, Honza gave me a tip (how to say ďshitĒ in Czech) and one thing that was reinforced today was that while Libuse and I didnít share a common language, a fist-bump for an ace was the same everywhere. The one thing the afternoon didnít have more me was a lot of aces, so my rounds were grinding out a lot of deuces on all of the holes. I was extremely happy for my shot chart as I used it frequently and really trusted in it to get me through a few tough puts to save another stroke or two. Whatís interesting is that two of my absolute worst holes in practice (hole 2 and 6) turned out to be two of my best holes of the first 6 rounds, going a total of +1 on both of them combined. All of this rose me to 14th place overall as the sun was starting to set on today.
So how do my predictions look?
- I came up short on the first round aces. I only got one, not two.
- Iím looking good on that average prediction but there are still 4 rounds left
- I havenít aced 12 yet but I had 3 really solid runs at it, leaving it just about 3 inches away each time
- Iím right at 3 holes under par right now
As for my winning bets Ė Iím not hitting any of those with the standings as they are but thereís a lot of minigolf left. I see some movement in the odds but not much. Fred Stewart has been playing lights out ever since dominating the North/South championship yesterday and he sits on top of the leader-board today. Iíd move his odds down to a solid 5-1 but with Olivia still there near the top Iíd keep her my favorite. Joey and Matt would likely drop a couple of points based on todayís standings and if I were looking for a new Superfecta pick, Tim Tally would have to be considered along with the top names after 6 solid rounds. Iím 15 strokes out of the lead so my 100-1 odds are probably still good, though that might drop a bit if weíre talking Top 10 finish. My best finish at a U.S. Open is 12th (on the same course) so I have a good target for tomorrow besides just keeping the scores down. For now, itís time to hit that bed (those pillows are calling) as itís another 6am wake up call tomorrow. Riders up!