ERIN, Wis. – Mason Andersen was warned.
Jon Rahm, the world’s 10th-ranked player and a former standout at Arizona State, told the 18-year-old Andersen during a Monday practice round at Erin Hills that the incoming Sun Devil was going to be “terrified” when he stepped on the first tee in his first U.S. Open on Thursday afternoon.
The advice? “Grip the club soft and hit it as hard as you can,” Rahm told him.
The result? “I just crushed my drive,” Andersen said.
With Andersen playing in one of the day’s final groups, the grandstands were nearly empty, but there were still nerves for the Chandler, Ariz., native, one of 14 amateurs in the field this week. But not for long.
With his dad, Rick, on the bag, Andersen made three birdies en route to an opening 1-over 73, which has him tied for 61st after 18 holes. He’s eight shots off of Rickie Fowler’s lead, but he beat World No. 1 Dustin Johnson by two shots, No. 2 Rory McIlroy by five and No. 3 Jason Day by six.
“That’s exciting,” Andersen said. “I played good, I hit the ball good, but there were a couple holes where I just made mental errors. 73, I probably would’ve taken it before the round. But after the round, knowing how I played, honestly I probably easily should’ve shot a 70, at least.”
Tough critics those teenagers. Andersen really only had one trouble stretch, making bogey on No. 11 and double on No. 12 after just finding the rough off both tees. He also failed to capitalize on deep drives on Nos. 1 and 18, making par.
Overall, though, Andersen was proud of how he handled himself in his first major-championship round. And he’s confident going into his morning round on Friday.
“I’m just going to go into tomorrow and expect something under par,” Andersen said. “That should do the trick and get me into the weekend.”
At 18 years old, that would be quite the accomplishment.