Colsaerts worth a second glance at U.S. Open

Nicolas Colsaerts during Round 2 of the U.S. Open at Olympic Club.

Nicolas Colsaerts during Round 2 of the U.S. Open at Olympic Club.

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SAN FRANCISCO – His route into the Ryder Cup will travel through Europe this summer, but for now, Nicolas Colsaerts is thoroughly enjoying an American sojurn.

Having carved out one of six sub-par rounds (69) in the morning wave at The Olympic Club, Colsaerts got halfway home at 1 over 141 and finds himself in the thick of things in this 112th U.S. Open.

Colsaerts? In the hunt? What, you think Belgium only knows waffles, chocolate, and Brussels sprouts?

Come on, the 29-year-old Colsaerts has won a tournament each of the past two seasons on the European PGA Tour and if the race for Ryder Cup berths were to end right now, the tall and lean one would be on the European team playing later this year outside of Chicago.

In other words, Colsaerts should no longer be considered a surprise. Just two weeks ago he was T-25 at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament and in 12 tournaments in Europe, he has finished in the top 10 seven times. The appearance at the Memorial was yet another chance to test his game against the best, further proof that Colsaerts has come of age, but he has also appreciated the chance to mix a little pleasure with business.

Colsaerts’ parents are with him for their first visit to America, and following the tournament in Dublin, Ohio, they flew to San Diego where the Belgian met up with his putting coach, Dave Stockton.

“It’s always good to catch up with Dave. We’ve seen each other a couple times now,” Colsaerts said. “I’m sure if he looks at the television and sees a couple of the putts, he’ll yell at me.”

Maybe, maybe not, because when he signed his card and headed from The Olympic Club, Colsaerts’ score was tied for second behind only Jim Furyk (1 under) of those who had completed 36 holes. The guess is, Stockton is thrilled for his student.

After spending a few days with Stockton, Colsaerts and his parents embarked upon a drive that would have to be considered one of the most breathtaking – from Southern California all the way up the coast to San Francisco. Colsaerts had control of the wheel, his parents took in the views, and never was there a fear of being confounded.

“As long as you kept the water on your left and headed due north, you can’t get lost,” Colsaerts said, laughing.

They stopped to check out Malibu and also took in the vistas along Mulholland Drive – but those came under the heading of Tourism 101. The stop up in Carmel? Chalk that up to a golfer’s passion for world-class pleasure.

“If you get a chance to play Cypress Point, you don’t refuse it,” Colsaerts said, so he jumped at the chance to play what is considered to be one of the world’s premier golf courses. Just don’t ask him what he shot, because he doesn’t know.

“I didn’t keep score. It’s just so hard to keep focus.”

Anyone who has played Cypress Point would agree with Colsaerts and anyone who has taken on the challenge of the U.S. Open would also appreciate the sterling work he has put in over the past two days. You just might not have expected it had you watched him push off in his opening round Thursday afternoon, for double-bogeys at the par-4 first and par-3 third had him feeling right out of the starting blocks.

His major experience isn’t deep, but Colsaerts did know enough not to hit the panic button. He played his next 15 holes in 2 under Thursday to shoot 72, and was 2 under for his first 15 holes in Round 2. Solid, consistent play, and he wasn’t even upset by a bogey at the par 4 sixth, his 16th hole.

In fact, when asked if the course was getting tougher, the Belgian shrugged.

“I’m the wrong guy to ask,” he said. “I played well. I felt it was easier than yesterday.”

Rest assured, not many in the 156-man field were using the word “easier” to describe The Olympic Club, but Colsaerts offered it up. Maybe that’s a sign of his growing confidence, his growing experience, or his growing stature, but Colsaerts appears at ease. And why not? Not even ranked within the world’s top 1,000 players at the beginning of 2009, he was 154th at the end of 2010 and currently sits 35th.

Yes, his stock is rising.

He’ll return to Europe after the U.S. Open and focus on European PGA Tour tournaments in order to nail down a Ryder Cup spot, though tournaments in the U.S. later this year (Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship) will offer him even more of a chance to polish his game.

Then again, that’s getting well ahead of the story, because Colsaerts has the weekend here to continue his surprising tale.

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