SAN FRANCISCO — When Nick Watney stood in the center of the 17th fairway Thursday afternoon at the Olympic Club, he was 3 over par in the first round of the U.S. Open and in danger of having his tournament slip away. What happened next: He pulled out a 5-iron, took a beautiful swing, and ended up with what U.S. Golf Association officials believe is the third double-eagle in Open history.
“It was kind of disbelief and joy,” Watney said. “It was really exciting.”
Watney, a native of Fresno, Calif., used that shot from 190 yards out to spark a 1-under-par 69, and he sits three back of Michael Thompson’s lead.
“It’s the U.S. Open,” he said, “so under par is good.”
The other known double-eagles in the U.S. Open: Shaun Micheel two years ago on the sixth hole at Pebble Beach, and T.C. Chen in 1985 at the second hole at Oakland Hills.
Double-eagles, or albatrosses, are more rare than holes-in-one. But Watney’s was the second in as many rounds at major championships. Louis Oosthuizen buried his second shot on the par-5 second hole in the final round of the Masters in April.
At the beginning of the week, Beau Hossler figured he would, once again, be the junior member of the Open field. But Hossler, a 17-year-old rising senior in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., was trumped when 14-year-old Andy Zhang gained entry into the event as an alternate.
So maybe Hossler will have to settle for being the youngest player to make the cut. After an opening even-par 70 in his second consecutive Open, he’s in excellent position, tied for eighth.
“I was a lot less nervous,” Hossler said. “Not saying I wasn’t nervous at all, because I was nervous. But last year was pretty ridiculous.”
A year ago, Hossler shot 76-77 to miss the cut at Congressional. Zhang, who was born in China but lives in Florida, started as might be predicted: triple bogey, double bogey, then three straight bogeys. But he played the final 13 holes in just 1 over and shot 79. “At least I broke 80,” he said. . . .
The U.S. Golf Association did away with the 10-shot rule at the Open, though many players seemed surprised that only the top 60 scores and ties after the second round will advance to the weekend. Previously, anyone within 10 shots of the lead would also advance. USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said the organization was concerned that, in a given year, so many players would advance that they would have to start from two tees over the final two rounds. . . .
Fairfax native Steve Marino finished Thursday second-to-last after an 84 that featured nine bogeys and two triple bogeys. District native Olin Browne, 53, who qualified by winning last year’s U.S. Senior Open, shot 77, including a triple bogey at 16, followed by an eagle at 17.