BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Ernie Els stood in a foyer just inside the clubhouse, along a wall adorned with photos and other mementos from his 1997 U.S. Open victory.
He wasn’t in the mood to reminisce, not after missing the cut in the championship’s return to Congressional.
“Fourteen years ago, I was in a different position,” he said. “Missing the cut now, I’m a little bit older, I’m (turning) 42 this year, and obviously things aren’t going my way right now. It’s been a long time. I’ve had a lot of success the last 14 years from ’97 to now.
“Right now, I’m just as low as I’ve ever been, and that’s the fact.”
Els missed a tap-in on his first hole Friday and wound up 4-putting the hole. His rounds of 73 and 75 put him two shots below the cut line projected to be at 4-over 146 when the suspended second round concludes Saturday morning. The two-time champion has missed the cut in four of his last six tournaments and is running out of ways to solve his wayward putting game.
“I maybe should take some time off, and see where I’m at,” he said. “I’m working hard and I’m not getting anything out of it, so maybe I should just go away for a while.”
2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink and Adam Scott are certain to miss the cut after each bogeyed his last hole to go to 5 over. That means the tournament is also over for Scott’s caddie, Steve Williams, who isn’t used to getting the weekend off when he carries the bag for Tiger Woods.
2003 U.S. Open winner Jim Furyk (149) is also done, as is Colombia’s Camilo Villegas (149), the only player who had made the cut in the last 12 majors. U.S. Amateur champ Peter Uihlein (150) will sit out the weekend for his second major in a row.
The amateurs poised to make the cut are Patrick Cantlay (142), Russell Henley (142) and Brad Benjamin, who was 3 over through 17 when play was halted and will be secure unless he double-bogeys the 18th.
Bubba Watson, meanwhile, birdied the difficult No. 18 to make the cut, saving the weekend for the foursome who made the send-up, poke-fun-at-golf video earlier this week. The other three in the group – Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler, and Hunter Mahan – have the weekend to think up another parody.
QUITE THE KID: Patrick Cantlay hardly looked like an amateur on the back nine Friday at the U.S. Open.
Doesn’t matter. He intends to remain one.
The 19-year-old Californian birdied Nos. 10, 11 and 12 – supposedly the most brutal stretch of the Blue Course – then picked up strokes at the 16th and 17th. He finished with a 67, which, combined with his first-round 75, puts him at even par at the halfway point.
“I had some confidence before I came here this week, but, yeah, it definitely makes you feel good about the future,” Cantlay said, “and hopefully one day I can be playing as a pro.”
But not anytime soon. He just finished his freshman year at UCLA and he said he plans to stay until he graduates.
“I have three more years,” he said.
On June 5, as winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation’s top college golfer, he posed with the Golden Bear himself.
DINWIDDIE’S OTHER OPEN: Sure, Robert Dinwiddie relishes the opportunity of playing in a U.S. Open. Now if he could just find a way into that other Open.
“Two out of three for this one,” he said, “and then none out of 13 for the British.”
That’s right. The 28-year-old Brit – born in Scotland, now living in England – is 0-for-13 getting into the marquee event in his home country.
On this side of the pond, he made the cut at Torrey Pines in 2008 and tied for 36th. He struggled this week at Congressional with rounds of 78 and 74, in part because of recent back problems.
“I wasn’t able to practice coming in, so I was a little rusty,” he said. “It’s a great experience. Disappointing I wasn’t able to do a bit better.”
But it would be an even better experience to be in the field next month at Royal St. George’s. Qualifying has come and gone – again with no success – but there are still spots available based on top finishers in upcoming European Tour events.
“We’ll see,” he said. “There’s still a chance.”
PAN HANDLING HIS FIRST OPEN: At one end, there’s Rory McIlroy, who is making the Blue Course look almost easy. At the other end, there are golfers like Cheng-tsung Pan, a 19-year-old amateur playing in his first U.S. Open.
Pan, who attends the University of Washington, followed a promising first round of 74 with a 78 on Friday.
“It gives me an appreciation,” said Pan, who took up the game in his home town of Miaoli, Taiwan, where his mother worked as a caddie. “McIlroy is 11 under right now and I’m 10 over? Twenty-one shots difference? That’s a lot. And the course is hard, as everyone knows. But there’s still a way to play these courses, so I think I’ll work harder in the future, just trying to get better.”
ROCK STAYS SOLID: Surely, Robert Rock was going to crash in the second round of the U.S. Open, having made it through the first round fueled by adrenaline and not much else after visa problems made him a last-minute arrival.
Nope. The Englishman was solid again. He followed up his 70 with an even-par 71 on Friday and will stick around for the weekend.
“I ran out of energy after nine holes, to be honest,” he said. “I’m 1 under for the tournament, which is OK, but I feel like I should have got through the second nine in 2 or 3 under. I knew I’d run out of energy at some point.”
Rock didn’t secure his visa for his flight to the United States until Wednesday afternoon, the delay caused by an alcohol-related driving incident when he was a teenager. He arrived in Maryland in the wee hours of Thursday.
SOUVENIR MOMENT: A shot in the creek turned into a moment of comic relief for a small gallery at No. 11 Friday at the U.S. Open.
Denmark’s Andreas Harto put his tee shot in the water along the right side of the fairway, near the spectator ropes. When Harto’s caddie, Garry Cooper, went to retrieve the ball, a fan asked if Harto was going to keep it.
“No,” Cooper said. “It’s unlucky.”
The fan asked if he could have the ball for his son. When Cooper obliged, another fan blurted out: “He doesn’t even have a son!”
After the laughter died down, the man – Congressional Country Club member David Steinberg – put the ball in his pocket and set the record straight.
“I really do have a son,” Steinberg said. “They were just busting my chops.”