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2015 U.S. Open Rookie Diary: Brandon Hagy

Photo: Getty Images/Harry How

This week, GOLF.com is excited to follow Brandon Hagy in his major championship debut. Hagy is a 24-year-old who played college golf at the University of California and was the 2014 Byron Nelson Award winner. He finished with an opening round 74 and is tied for 101st. Here he is, in his own words, describing his week so far.

It’s always been my dream to play in major championships, especially the U.S. Open. I’ve felt confident about my game for a while now, and I’ve had some good finishes all year that told me I was working on the right things.

I got into my first U.S. Open through local and sectional qualifying. I shot 69 at Duke University GC to get through local qualifying, then shot eight-under 134 during the 36-hole sectional qualifier at Germantown CC and Ridgeway CC in Tennessee to get to Chambers Bay. It was an awesome feeling to hit the ball so well there and make some putts; it showed that my hard work is paying off.

I spent a couple days at home in Los Angeles before coming to Chambers Bay last Friday. I played three nine-hole rounds and had my coach, Brady Riggs, and my caddie along for the ride. Brady knows my game really well and helped me strategically around the course. At that point, I was just really excited to keep the momentum I had from sectionals going into this week.

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Chambers Bay reminds me slightly of Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. I played in the British Amateur there last year and tied for sixth in the stroke play portion. Learning to play the ball on the ground at Portrush has helped make the game plan at Chambers Bay more familiar.

This week I played with Webb Simpson, Blayne Barber and John Senden on Monday, Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama on Tuesday, and Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley Wednesday. We all talked a lot about strategy around the greens and general aspects of the course. I asked Adam about how he prepares for events like this; he’s a great veteran to learn from and I paid specific attention to what he said.

The biggest difference between the U.S. Open and other PGA Tour events I’ve played is that there are so many people here during the practice rounds. Practicing at regular events sometimes feels like you’re out there by yourself.

Chambers Bay is a long course, but with my length I have advantages on some holes. Playing with Scott and Matsuyama on Tuesday, I was hitting it by Adam most of the day and Hideki was about 10-15 yards behind him. I played with Dustin Johnson not long ago at Sherwood in LA; he’s really the only guy I’ve played with who can keep up with me.

On the seventh hole, for example—I think it’s a 500-yard par-4—there’s a bunker on the right that’s a 295 carry. I drive it over that consistently, and I did that today and had wedge in and made birdie. I got off to a slow start today and missed a few short putts that could have gotten my round going. It’s tough to get those back on a U.S. Open course.

Photo:

U.S. Open rookie Brandon Hagy before his the first round at Chambers Bay Thursday.

Every time you have a new competitive experience there’s always going to be nerves. But I’m proud of the way I handled that today. I hit a good drive off the first tee and that was a big help.

My family is here with me, so tonight I’ll grab dinner with them and probably watch a movie. I’m not playing until 3:00 p.m. tomorrow so I’ll need to get my mind off it. Tomorrow I’ll take my usual 25-minute warm-up before I head to the course. I’ll do some jogging and stretching with resistance bands and some rotational stuff —just enough to activate the muscles I’ll need on the course.

The course will likely play firmer tomorrow, so I’ll try to be smart when playing to the greens and just make sure that I have a chance for a two-putt at it, whatever I do. It set up very fair for me today, and I don’t expect too many surprises tomorrow.

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