U.S. Open Q&A: Mike Van Sickle on Playing Oakmont

U.S. Open Q&A: Mike Van Sickle on Playing Oakmont

Mike Van Sickle is still waiting to see if he gets a spot in the 2016 U.S. Open.
Courtesy Photo

OAKMONT, Pa. — Here’s a quick Q&A with first-time U.S. Open competitor Mike Van Sickle and … yes, we’re related. He’s my son.

You started your practice round Wednesday by holing out for eagle on the 10th hole. What was that like?

It’s funny, my first reaction was, That’s really awesome! Then it was like, Oh, we should’ve saved that. I turned around to Joe (Boros, his coach) and Brian (his friend) and said, ‘We should just do that every hole.’ It was a pitching wedge from 150.

Was there anyone there at the green to see it at 7 a.m.?

There were maybe a dozen people up there. They kind of went nuts. And there were 30 or 40 people behind the ropes on the side of the hole and they were cheering, too.

Did anyone say anything to you at the green?

Just the usual. Great shot! And then, Nice pants! Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen and somebody was ahead of us and when we were on the putting green after the round, Oosthuizen’s caddie was walking past and said, “Hey, that was a helluva way to start the round, wow!” That was kind of neat.

And you said, “Thanks for playing so fast.”

I did not. At 11, I hit gap wedge from 127 and it two-hopped behind the hole and started to come back toward the cup and I thought, Come on, don’t go in again! But it stopped two feet behind the hole.

Anybody out there see that one?

There was one guy who threw his arms up like he thought it might go in, that was it.

You got there before anyone arrived.

Yeah, I wanted to tee off at the same time today as I am on Thursday, 6:56 a.m., to see what it was like. My alarm went off at 5:10 a.m.

By alarm, do you mean clock alarm or Harvey Van Sickle, you four-and-a-half-month old?

Harvey went off at 4 a.m. but my alarm went off at 5:10 a.m. On 13, it looked like I made a hole-in-one from the tee. Again there was nobody in the grandstands. It was early and probably a lot of people went to the Penguins parade downtown. It hit, bounced a couple times and kept trickling backwards and left and stopped four inches away. As we walked up, we were talking, “Is that actually hanging on the edge?” It wasn’t.

I saw ESPN’s Andy North stopped to chat with you on the 17th green. What went on there?

It was really cool. I thought, Hey, this is a two-time U.S. Open champion. The first thing I should probably do is ask him how he went about things.’ He said, ‘It’s all around the greens, especially lag-putting.’ He said he hit a lot of 40-, 60-, and 80-foot putts just to try to get the speed of the greens. That’s actually we’ve been working on, and our speed putting has been awesome so far in practice. So it was great to hear that from him.

That is true, especially at courses like Oakmont where it can be difficult to hit it close.

The other cool thing was, he told us that one of his U.S. Open wins, he made only nine birdies all week and five were in one round. So that was a good reminder that the U.S. Open is different from your normal Tour stop.

What did you do after the round?

We grabbed breakfast. It was still that time of day — 10 o’clock. We went to the putting green and hit some shorter putts. From there, we went to the short-game area. Then we went to the range and played a round of golf—just envisioning what we’d hit off each tee and the approach shot and if I missed the green, I tried to emulate the pitch shot I would have.

You played by yourself today after going nine holes Tuesday with Matt Kuchar. Were you surprised nobody else signed up to play early?

A day or two ago, they were calling for rain this afternoon. I figured some guys with a 1:50 time might jump up out early to beat the rain but nobody did. By the way, Kevin Foley, another alternate I knew from junior golf, came up to me and thanked me for writing that story at GOLF.com about where I stood on the alternate list and what had to happen for me to get in. He said, I had no idea what the situation was until I read your article and then I knew exactly what I needed, so, cool. I ran into the current first alternate, Hunter Larson, who was hanging around the putting green today. He said hi and commented on that story, too.

Any notable comments on your pants?

I guess Jim Furyk was standing near the water cooler on the practice range while I was doing an interview with a local TV station. I didn’t hear this at the time but Brian told me that Furyk looked at me and said, “Oh, look at those pants!” Then he kind of stopped himself and said, “Is that a Van Sickle?”