OAKMONT, Pa. — You’ll read plenty about Paul Casey’s second-round 66, which propelled him from 104th place to among the leaders at the 2007 U.S. Open. You’ll read how the Englishman turned Oakmont Country Club into Oakmont Municipal, carding five birdies against just one bogey. How his total was 11 strokes better than the scoring average for the day. How it ranked among the greatest non-final Open rounds in recent memory.
Don’t believe the hype. Casey’s round was better than all of those words and statistics.
“I don’t see how you could do it,” Brandt Snedeker said when Casey was still on the course. “It would be considered one of the best rounds of the year.” Snedeker wasn’t talking about shooting 66, but merely breaking par.
“Could be a 16-hole total,” Justin Rose said. He wasn’t kidding.
The players were flabbergasted because no one goes low at Oakmont. Not that low. Not this week. You just don’t. Defined by impenetrable rough and diabolical greens, this layout not only punishes poor shots, it occasionally penalizes good ones, too. “I saw Adam Scott hit two perfect [drives] today,” Jim Furyk said, “and they didn’t get in the fairway.”
Casey meanwhile hit all but one fairway, stuck a wedge to 18 inches at 14, got up and down from the sand twice in two attempts, and needed just 26 putts, none more dramatic than the 45-foot birdie bomb that kick-started his round at No. 10.
“It’s the best round of golf I’ve ever played,” he said. “[The other players] are probably thinking, ‘How in the world did I shoot that?'”
Wait a second, better than the 60 he carded as an undergrad at Arizona State? Better, Casey said. “I’ve shot low numbers, I’ve holed out shots, but there is no — there is no rest out there,” he said.
Casey’s competitors know that. As Casey finished his round on the 9th green, which backs into the practice green, his peers celebrated with him as if he had just hurled a perfect game. Nick Dougherty, the 18-hole leader, pointed at him and gave him a raised thumb of approval. Ricky Barnes offered more of the same.
Colin Montgomerie and Chris DiMarco just shrugged their shoulders and, as Casey put it, “gave me that how-on-the-earth-have-I-shot-that sort of look.”
“I wasn’t completely aware of everybody sort of watching or applauding,” Casey said, “but I did get a sense that guys were aware of what was going on.”
In a word, history.