This spring, during his junior year of high school, he again advanced through qualifying and ended up at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. All week, he said he was far more comfortable than he had been the previous year. And in the middle of the second round, after he birdied the difficult first hole, Woods and Furyk stood tied for second. Hossler led the tournament.
All that led to an unprecedented spotlight. When Hossler smiled, he revealed his braces. When he arrived at a green, the gallery chanted his name. And even when he made a mistake, he gained admirers – and confidence.
“I think the biggest hole for me was No. 5 on Friday,” he said. This came after he had fallen from the lead, when he could have been fuming about a double bogey at the fourth. He hit his drive off the fifth tee so far right, it landed in a bunker alongside the fourth fairway. His next move: Pull a 6-iron and sky it over the trees, back into the proper fairway, a gorgeous shot that showed guts and talent. He ended up making bogey.
“But it could have been so much worse,” he said. “I think that calmed me down.”
That kind of poise led to Hossler contending all weekend, and he finished tied for 29th after a final-round 76. Only a double bogey at 18 prevented him from matching Spieth, his friend and future college teammate, as the low amateur. Everyone, from the top to the bottom of the leader board, took notice.
“Even in college, I would have been scared to death to play in a U.S. Open,” said Webb Simpson after he won the championship. “And these guys are playing like they’re trying to win the tournament.”
Hossler said he spoke to Spieth on Friday, and the pair will try to hook up for a practice round Wednesday. He will fly from California on Monday with his caddie, Bill Schellenberg, who also happens to be his godfather. Other family members will arrive Wednesday. Together, once play begins Thursday, they’ll try to make sense of this whole ride.
“I’ve got to think about what my goal is for the week,” he said. For a kid who’s already led a major championship, what would be good enough?