Blog: Henley chasing low-amateur honors

Russell Henley

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8:52 p.m.: Henley on track to rake in low-amateur honors for second straight year

BETHESDA, Md. – Russell Henley had already thrown his golf ball into the gallery off the 18th green after shooting 2-under 69, but the cheers just kept coming.

He walked a bit further off the green and looked back to ask his caddie for another ball, which was caught by a jumping teenager in a white shirt. More and more cheers. People from Georgia and people who had never heard of the recent UGA grad continued to clamor for more attention from Henley.

He asked his caddie for another ball and sky-hooked it into the crowd. And then another. And then a whole sleeve. When his bag was finally empty, he had thrown eight balls and a glove into the grandstands.

It’s probably the least Henley could do for the fans. As long as they’re around, he can’t miss.

“I like the crowd, for or against,” said Henley, who’s tied for low amateur honors with Patrick Cantlay of UCLA at even-par 142 (T-15). “It almost makes me feel like my attitude is better because there’s kids out there and I just want them to look up and be like, ‘Wow, that’s what I want to be like.’ I think it definitely brings out the best in me.”

Henley pleased plenty of patrons last year at the U.S. Open, where he tied for low amateur at T-16. He also won a Nationwide Tour event as an amateur in May, claiming victory at the Stadion Classic at UGA, his home course while he was a Bulldog.

“I don’t have anything to lose.  I’m not playing for money.  I’m playing for fun,” Henley said. “That’s what’s great about playing as an amateur.  Hopefully I’ll play like that when I’m a pro.”

Henley’s fellow low-amateur Cantlay couldn’t be more different. He’s quiet and reserved, but there were no college players in the country this year that had more game. Cantlay won four times, including the NCAA West Regional and raked in freshman-of-the-year and player-of-the-year awards. He played on the Palmer Cup team with Henley and is a lock for the Walker Cup team.

“(Patrick) is very impressive – little draw down the middle every time – and a very, very good putter, and he’s a great guy, too,” Henley said.  “Hopefully I’ll get to play on his team soon.”

And hopefully there are plenty of fans there to see it.

– D.J. Piehowski

• • •

5:54 p.m.: Solving the mystery behind the apparel of Nike staff players

BETHESDA, Md. – Call me Swami and dial my number (407-TRUSTME) for advice about your golfing future.

Okay, let me look into my crystal ball.

Do the words triple bogey mean anything to you?

My prediction: For the third round of the U.S. Open, former British Open champion Stewart Cink will wear a white shirt with dark khaki pants. Reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel will wear a white shirt with black pants.

Rickie Fowler they aren’t. Both Cink and Schwartzel are relatively conservative in their apparel choices.

Both are Nike staff players, and their clothing in big tournaments such as the U.S. Open is “scripted,” meaning it is chosen far in advance by Nike officials along with the individual players.

“Sure, we already know exactly what they will wear in the British Open in July and the PGA Championship in August,” said Doug Reed, Nike’s global director for golf apparel and footwear. “We have already laid it out for the guys.”

For the final round of the U.S. Open, Cink will wear a pale blue shirt with dark gray pants. Schwartzel will reverse his Saturday outfit, wearing a black shirt with white pants.

Nike has a huge collection of sophisticated golf apparel, and that’s the look Cink and Schwartzel are seeking. The procedure for choosing the clothing started months ago.

“We’ll show them an initial pass (drawings),” Reed said. “Then, when we get the samples, they can see everything exactly as it looks. We’ll lay it all out, and they’ll give us their approval.

“We script them around the majors and other special events. For the regular events, they’re on their own. But they have so many choices. They get the range of everything we have. They get to choose from all the styles and all the technology and all the fabrics.”

Reed said golf fans pay attention to what touring pros are wearing.

“We get calls: ‘Hey, have you got the Paul Casey shirt?’ Or ’What was Anthony Kim wearing on Friday?’ So we are very serious about the whole thing.”

Nike touring pros, he said, typically receive three shipments of apparel in a six-month period.

They wear most of the items multiple times (“gently worn” is the phrase), then give them away, often to young golfers with limited resources.

It is a process that repeats itself over and over.

“We can lay out 12, 13 guys with their outfits,” Reed said. “We want to make sure that somebody doesn’t look across the tee box and see the same outfit on another player.

“You want you to feel like you’re wearing your own individual clothes. It’s kind of your own personal deal.”

– James Achenbach

• • •

5:10 p.m.: Mickelson has another up-and-down day

BETHESDA, Md. – Phil Mickelson continued his struggles Friday at Congressional, but made a little move up the leaderboard.

Mickelson had five birdies Friday, but a double-bogey on the 18th kept him from finishing in red numbers. He's at 1-over 143 (74-69), 12 shots behind Rory McIlroy.

Mickelson hit 8 of 14 fairways, three more than in Thursday's first round. He hit 13 greens after hitting just eight one day earlier.

"It was a disappointing finish with that double, but I'm still struggling, even though I was able to shoot under par today," Mickelson said.

He's a five-time runner-up at the U.S. Open, most recently in 2009. He was fourth in 2010.

- Sean Martin

•••

5 p.m.: Play has resumed after weather delay

BETHESDA, Md. – Play has resumed at the U.S. Open after a 42-minute delay caused by dangerous weather in the area.

Official sunset is 8:35 p.m. EST. When play resumed at 4:46, the final group of the day had 13 holes to play, meaning it will be close as to whether or not the USGA can get everyone through tonight.

– D.J. Piehowski

3:45 p.m.: Host of major champs outside cutline

BETHESDA, Md. – Should the cut fall to 4 over at the U.S. Open, seven more major championships will be represented on the weekend.

The cutline currently falls at 3 over, which would leave out a host of major champions. Currently on the outside looking in are:

Retief Goosen: 2001 and 2004 U.S. Opens

Martin Kaymer: 2010 PGA Championship

Ernie Els: 1994 U.S. Open, 1997 U.S. Open, 2002 British Open

Jim Furyk: 2003 U.S. Open

Also at 4 over is Dustin Johnson, who was in the hunt at the 2010 U.S. Open and PGA Championship until his final-round theatrics; Matteo Manassero; Harrison Frazar, last week’s St. Jude Classic winner; and Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer

– D.J. Piehowski

3:14 p.m.: Snedeker gives props to Rory

BETHESDA, Md. – Usually, third place at the U.S. Open is a pretty enviable spot. Not quite as much when you’re nine shots back.

“I look back at my first two rounds and think if I had played my best golf I could be at 7 or 8 under par max and (Rory McIlroy) would have beat me by four,” Snedeker said “and I’m sure he left some out there at some point.”

Firing a pair of 70s to open his 2011 U.S. Open, Snedeker is on his way to another major top 10. He has finished top 10 at the U.S. Open in two of his last three attempts (T-8 in 2010 and T-9 in 2008 with an MC in between).

After his round, Snedeker was happy about the state of his game, but he was greeted with more questions about what the 22-year-old Irishman had done in the morning.

“I think everybody would agree he’s probably got more talent in his pinky than I have in my whole body,” Snedeker said. “Once he matures and starts being out here for a while and being in these kind of situations, I think he’s only going to get harder to beat. It’s fun to kind of watch him grow up.

“I hope he can kind of keep it going for the weekend,” Snedeker said of McIlroy. “As a fan of golf I’d love to see him win this week. As a competitor I’d love to see myself win. We’ll see how it goes.”

- D.J. Piehowski

•••

11:09 a.m.: Rory’s roaring start

BETHESDA, Md. – Rory McIlroy jumped out to a three-shot lead in Round 1 of the U.S. Open. Friday, he showed no signs of slowing down.

McIlroy made birdies at Nos. 4 and 6 and holed out from the fairway for eagle at the par-4 eighth to make the turn at 10 under for the tournament. Making the turn, McIlroy held a six-shot lead over Zach Johnson, which was extended back to seven after Johnson bogeyed the par-3 10th.

McIlroy needed 26 holes to get to 10 under par, making him the quickest to ever do so in a U.S. Open. Gil Morgan was the first accomplish the feat, at the 1992 U.S. Open; he needed 39 holes. Ricky Barnes needed 40 in 2009.

Tiger Woods took 66 holes to get to 10 under in his legendary 2000 win at Pebble Beach.

– D.J. Piehowski

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