PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (June 16, 2010) -- I tried to catch up with as many amateurs as I could today, watching to see how they go about their business in a major championship setting. Some of them have a ways to go before turning pro, while others will be doing so in the immediate future. One thing that's for certain, other than the lack of a "staff" bag it's hard to tell them apart from the rest of the players in the field. Which brings me to my first of several observations in today's entry:
MORGAN HOFFMAN - A fine young man! (and look out for him this week)
I watched Morgan on the course, carefully surveying several putts on the treacherous 15th green. On his way to the 16th tee, he signed autographs for a couple of ladies who talked to him about their kids, chided him about his good looks, and in one case got him to sign a jacket. He took it all in stride, had fun, and smiled. Then a funny thing happened. I was watching Morgan hit balls on the range, and a spectator came up to his father Greg.
"I just wanted to tell you something I noticed about your son today. In all of my years watching golf, he is the only person besides Arnold Palmer who looks people in the eyes when he signs autographs. You should be very proud."
Talk about a beaming dad. A player in the US Open that is already establishing such a rapport with fans. He explained to the new president of the unofficial Morgan Hoffman fan club (the fan) that when Morgan played in the Palmer Cup, Mr. Palmer sat down with the US team and said, "Look, a lot of you are going to go on to professional careers. Let me give you some advice. When you give an autograph, care about what you are doing and look your fans in the eye. And don't just scribble down your name, write it so people know who you are."
Just another example of the King's influence continuing through the generations.
A LIVE CHAT (Two Georgia teammates yuk it up with their fans around the world)
Hudson Swafford (left) and Russell Henley
Golfweek, our partner publication, does an awesome job with player development, largely based on their inside coverage of college golf. They know all the top ranked players, and can ask them to do some pretty wacky stuff. Today, two Georgia bulldogs who qualified for the US Open the old fashioned way, Russell Henley (No. 20 in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com Men's World Rankings) and Hudson Swafford, hosted a live chat in the Media Center and had a ball doing it.
Henley, a Ben Hogan Award finalist who finished the season No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, won his sectional qualifying site in Roswell, Ga. Swafford claimed co-medalist honors at the Memphis, Tenn., sectional qualifying site. He sat out the 2009-10 college season after undergoing shoulder surgery and played his first 18 holes since surgery in April. To view a replay, click here>
THE GOLF COURSE (Even par looks pretty good to me!)
You're going to hear about the changes all week, principally the fairway cuts which bring the edge of the fairway right up to the hazard on holes like No's. 4, 6, 8, and several others. Tom Watson said in his interview that the course is fast and firm, but he has seen the fairways much harder (in 1977 when there was a drought and he said there were literally cracks in them) and the greens, in a U.S. Open year, firmer (In 1972, when he said they were literally black and blue in color). My favorite comment from Watson's press conference,which I attended, was when he described the par 5 sixth hole. "Push the ball a little right there, and you're going to wind up down there with the otters." Watson, incidentally, has so many connections with the area that it would be tough to list them all, but he described his chip in in 1982 on the 17th and his many AT&T tournaments playing with his good friend, and former USGA President Sandy Tatum, as right there at the top.
We tried to grab some shots you don't see on the major websites and on TV - check out a photo gallery on Facebook here>