SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — As the 12:41 group walked onto the 10th tee, a father in the first row of the bleachers consulted his program to see who was next to play. "Scott Gregory," he read aloud. "From England."
"Is he good?" asked his son, an eight-year-old trying to decipher signatures on his U.S. Open flag.
"Yeah, he's good!" his dad responded emphatically. "You're out here? You're good."
He's right. Gregory is obviously a very good player. But Thursday he was undone by Shinnecock in the wind to the tune of a 22-over-par 92 that was among the worst U.S. Open scores of this millennium.
Gregory was every bit the good sport after the round, agreeing to speak with reporters and acknowledging on Twitter later in the day that he was "enjoying the stick I'm receiving and looking forward to playing well tomorrow."
That last part was important: playing well on Friday. Gregory did just that, managing the course far better in more forgiving conditions. He narrowly missed birdie putts on three of his first four holes and made a nifty up-and-down on the other. The four pars he made to start were more than the three he'd notched the entire first round.
"I just wanted to try to shoot level par going into today, to try the absolute best that I could," he said. "And make some birdies."
Gregory's round wasn't perfect; he scattered six bogeys over the next 12 holes to climb to 28 over par and a secure hold on last place. But at 5:12 p.m., just as the last breezes of his work week were being replaced by the still of night, Gregory poured in a 25-foot putt on his 17th hole of the day for his first birdie of the tournament. He raised his arms in genuine delight and grinned in the direction of a small group of family and friends who had accompanied him the whole way 'round, finally with a chance to cheer raucously for a made birdie putt.
He had one impressive shot left: After he didn't quite catch his tee shot at No. 9, Gregory smoked a 3-wood up the hill that flew all the way to the hole and stuck some 20 feet from the pin, capping off his week with perhaps his single best swing.
In the end, it was a 75 for Gregory, marking both a 17-shot improvement from day one and a small reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. That spirit had Gregory and a small crowd of onlookers smiling as he walked up to the final green. What was he thinking about as he tapped in his final putt for par?
"Just to try and get back here every year, really," he said. "And end up with the guys who are going to be at the top of the leaderboard."