Apparently, a lengthy major-championship résumé isn’t a prerequisite at this year’s US Open. How else to explain J.B. Park (70) and Alistair Presnell (70), who have never teed it up in our national championship, or Jason Bohn (70), who has played only one?
Beau Hossler made his US Open debut last year at Congressional . . . at age 16, with a mouth full of braces, a few weeks after passing his driver’s test. He’s back at golf’s toughest test again this year, only with a new look (he’s filled out a 6-foot, 190-pound frame), a new confidence (“I feel comfortable out there”), a new allegiance (he committed to 2012 NCAA champion Texas) and, well, a new result.
Having missed the cut at last year’s U.S. Open after rounds of 76-77, the 17-year-old Hossler fired an even-par 70 Thursday to sit four shots back of leader Michael Thompson (and finish as the day’s low amateur).
To put Hossler’s round into context, consider that Patrick Cantlay, the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, shot 76 Thursday. So did Phil Mickelson, a five-time runner-up at the US Open. Masters champion Bubba Watson was two shots worse.
Asked if he was surprised by his start at Olympic — supposedly the toughest major-championship test since Oakmont in 2007 — Hossler shrugged, “Not at all. I’ve been playing really well lately. I expected to go out there and get a lot out of my round.”
As high-school sensations go, Hossler, of Mission Viejo, Calif., has been decidedly under the radar this week. Andy Zhang has drawn all the attention, and deservedly so — at age 14, he became the youngest US Open participant in history. (He shot 79 Thursday.)
That’s an impressive feat, certainly, but Hossler authored his own USGA history this week, becoming the first high-schooler to play back-to-back US Opens since Mason Rudolph in 1950-51.
Naturally, his second Open has created new memories. On Tuesday, Hossler and partner Alberto Sanchez engaged Mickelson and Mark McCormick in a spirited match-play battle. (The kid emerged victorious, but the main takeaway for Hossler was Lefty’s credo to take conservative lines and make aggressive swings.) On Wednesday, Hossler tagged along with Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson as they made final preparations for Olympic. (A wise trio to follow, with the three veterans having combined to make 41 previous US Open appearances.)
“As hectic as it is,” Hossler said, “I feel a lot more comfortable with the situation now than I did last year, because it was something so new to me.”
The only mental mistake he made Thursday was his third shot on the 640-yard 16th, which plays more like a par 5-1/2. Having missed the fairway, Hossler could only advance the ball about 40 yards with his second shot, then tried to reach the green from 275 yards away. He missed the green right, in an impossible spot, and wound up making bogey.
“I just expected to get the most out of my rounds,” said Hossler, one of eight amateurs in the field this week. “I can’t really put a number on it because the course is changing. I just want to make sure I’m not making any mental mistakes.”
That’s the key at a US Open. Anybody with a major-championship résumé knows that.