Hossler shows maturity at US Open
Beau Hossler walked down the second fairway at Olympic Club, suddenly surrounded by a throng of fans shouting, "Let's go Beau! Let's do this!"
He lumbered up the tilted green and settled next to the bunker, where his ball was sitting nicely. He glanced up at the big leaderboard off to the right of the green.
Only two names in red: his own at 2 under, and Jim Furyk at 1 under. The 17-year-old with a mouth full of braces was leading the 112th US Open.
"I was pretty excited about it, but then again I had another 40 holes at least to be playing in the tournament,” said Hossler, the rising senior-to-be at Santa Margarita High School in Southern California. “You’ve got a long way to go, and you can't get too wrapped up in where you're at.
"You’ve got to keep focused and try to go out there and salvage some pars on the first six holes, which is pretty difficult to do."
And so began the maturation of the teenager, and the world was his theater. Heck, he was a top Twitter trending topic during his round.
Even Hossler never anticipated being in contention — much less the lead — on Friday at the US Open.
"I would probably tell them they're nuts," he said.
What proved to be a bit crazy was his up-and-down play over the front side's first six holes, regarded by many to be the most difficult opening stretch in US Open history.
A birdie at No. 1 put him into the lead, but reality started setting in on that second green. After nearly holing his bunker shot, he two-putted from 6 feet for a bogey. Back into a tie for the lead.
A par at No. 3. Still tied.
And then he walked to the long tee box at the par-4 fourth. Thump. Hossler sent his tee ball screaming to the left, hitting a branch and coming straight down, settling less than two feet from the trunk. He put a nice swing on his second shot, but could only advance it about 150 yards and stayed in the long rough. After a poor third shot, a suspect chip and two putts, he fell out of red numbers.
Now two shots out of the lead, Hossler took a deep breath and hit his next tee ball.
"Fore!" shouted a marshal. It went well right, ricocheting off another tree and bounding backward into a bunker on the right side of the fourth fairway.
A debate ensued in that bunker, with Hossler and caddie Bill Schullenberg disagreeing on his best play. Hossler wanted to take a 6-iron to try and clear some monster trees in front of him. Schullenberg, Hossler's godfather, wanted him to take wedge and hit sideways, back into the fifth fairway.
Hossler won the argument and hit a bold shot that found the fairway to set up a wedge into the green. Sure, he'd go on to bogey, but the shot had the gallery buzzing.
"I asked him how close he was when he cleared those trees," said Schullenberg. "He said, 'About three inches.’ And then he smiled. I looked at him and said, 'You're going to give me a coronary.'"
"I could have compounded it either way," said Hossler, who is the youngest player to make back-to-back US Open appearances since Mason Rudolph in the early 1950s. "I don't think a 70-yard pitch shot into the fairway from a bunker is that easy either. Fortunately, it worked out. If not, I could have made a quad there."
With a beautiful chip-in birdie on No. 7 (his 17th hole of the day), Hossler managed to get around in 3-over 73 to sit four shots off the lead shared by Tiger Woods, David Toms and Jim Furyk.
While reality slapped Hossler around a bit late on Friday, the University of Texas commit (for the 2013-14 season) is holding true to his goal from the outset: being low amateur.
His father, Beau Hossler Sr., said he saw his son grow up in front of his eyes on Friday.
"He kept his head up and even managed to smile through it," he said.
What about seeing his son's name at the top of the U.S. Open leaderboard?
"That's pretty neat. Pretty neat."
Not a bad early Father's Day present, indeed.