PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Ty Tryon was chipping balls onto Pebble Beach’s practice green Wednesday afternoon, making the final preparations for his first major. The former teen phenom sounded relieved as he ended a conversation about his first-round pairing by saying, “I’m not going to be the youngest anymore.”
Tryon, who was 17 when he earned a PGA Tour card in 2001, seems glad to no longer be a footnote or sideshow. It feels like the 26-year-old is making a comeback here on California’s Central Coast – if that’s possible for someone yet to reach his 30th birthday – but he’s been able to make his way around Pebble Beach rather quietly, compared to his days on the PGA Tour.
Tryon qualified for the Open by shooting 64-74 June 7 in Rockville, Md. He will tee off in the first round of the U.S. Open at 9:01 a.m. Thursday with Hugo Leon and amateur Andrew Putnam. Tryon drove cross-country with his wife, Hanna, and son, Tyson, to get from his home in Orlando to Pebble Beach’s first tee, where he’ll make his first PGA Tour start since October 2003.
“I’m excited about it,” Tryon said. “There’s a lot to look forward to this week. It’s been a great experience, already. It’s better than the alternative, being back home playing a small event.”
Tryon comes to Pebble Beach after spending most of the year on the Moonlight Tour, a small circuit of mostly 18-hole events in the Orlando area. Tryon shot 65 to win one event earlier this year, but has struggled much of the year. He returned home to Florida after missing his first three cuts on the North Carolina-based eGolf Professional Tour.
Tryon is one of the Open’s feel-good stories out of sectional qualifying. He first received national attention when he tied for 39th as a 16-year-old amateur at the 2001 Honda Classic. Later that year, he tied for 37th at the B.C. Open after holding the first-round lead with a 65. He earned a PGA Tour card at that year’s Q-School, at just 17.
He struggled on the PGA Tour, making just five of 27 cuts in 2002 and ’03 (he played ’03 on a medical extension because of tonsillitis and mononucleosis). Since making just six of 22 cuts on the Nationwide Tour in 2004, he’s played zero PGA Tour events and just three Nationwide Tour events.
Tryon didn’t play much tournament golf last year, instead working at David Leadbetter’s golf academy near Orlando. He decided to take time away from the game after shooting 87 in the first stage of PGA Tour Q-School in fall 2008.
“I knew I wasn’t done playing,” Tryon said. “It wasn’t something I really wanted to do, but I felt like I needed to. … I felt like I was playing not to fail. I kind of realized I couldn’t do it that way, so golf just took a backseat for a while.”
There was one benefit to Tryon’s early stardom. He said he still finances his pro career with money from the seven-figure endorsement contracts he signed upon turning pro.
When asked if he has any regrets, he said, “I’d probably try to focus a little bit more on golf, and maybe not let myself be pulled in so many different directions or not allow myself to get stretched too thin. … I feel like I was playing to please a lot of other people.
“I would’ve told myself just accept it; this is a great opportunity. Don’t fight the opportunity. Just embrace it.”