I Survived The U.S. Open (And Tiger Didn't Kill Me)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 16: Tiger Woods of the United States watches a shot from the rough on the 16th hole during the third round of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on June 16, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

I chose the picture above this article for two reasons. First, that's Tiger Woods in the green shirt, with a look I'd become all too familiar with last weekend, and me in the gray polo standing behind him. I spent the last week at The Olympic Club, taking in practice rounds and walking inside the ropes at the U.S. Open. It was pretty great.

The second reason is the kid in the Oregon shirt, but we'll get to that in a minute.

This is only semi-WSU related (more on that in a moment, as well), but I figured I'd share my experiences. On the Friday before the tournament began, I was asked if I wanted to go on behalf of SB Nation. As quickly as I could get out the word "yes," I was booking a flight to San Francisco. And the following Tuesday, I was off on an adventure.

We'll do this in bullet-point fashion. I chronicled most of my experience over at SBNation.com, but there were a few tidbits I left out for one reason or another.

  • As for the WSU side of the equation, I was lucky enough to meet and chat with Todd Milles of the Tacoma News Tribune. Todd is a WSU grad who does fantastic work with a great staff at The News Tribune, and getting to sit down and chat with him was a highlight of the tournament for me. Then again, maybe I'm bad luck: I ran into him again the next afternoon and his laptop had been stolen. He was filing stories from his mobile phone, which is about as painstaking as you can imagine.
  • The kid in the Oregon shirt above is more of a symbol of the week. Oregon fans were out in full force and were awesome throughout the tournament. The reason they were all there? Casey Martin, of course.
  • For those that don't know Casey's story, he's the head coach of the Oregon golf team. He's also the guy that sued the PGA Tour in 1999, eventually winning the right to use a golf cart during tournaments because he has a rare circulatory issue in his legs. I followed Martin around quite a bit, watching him play a practice round with Tiger Woods (former teammates at Stanford and friends) and standing near the eighth green as his tournament came to an end. He missed a par putt that would've got him to the weekend on his final hole of the second round. As the crowd gathered in the natural amphitheater that is the eighth hole gasped when Martin missed his second-to-last putt of the tournament, I muttered "damnit," knowing it was for the cut.
  • I root for stories, and Martin was one of those stories. Except he's also just a great guy who had a pretty fantastic following. I watched Chip Kelly walk around with Martin, Tiger and Patrick Cantlay on Wednesday, taking in the scene alongside the caddies. And I saw a strong Oregon contingent all week, including friends of Martin and Oregon administrators. It was a cool thing to see and the Oregon fans were all polite and enthusiastic. It was also cool to see Martin stick around and watch Tiger as a fan, sitting against the grandstand on the practice range and greeting players at the first tee.
  • The shirt Casey Martin wore on Thursday was Chip Kelly's choice. Martin sometimes helps Kelly with uniform combinations, so it was payback time. I also wonder if Tiger's shirt on Saturday (pictured above) had something to do with Martin.
  • A 14-year-old shot 79-78 at The Olympic Club. You feel old now. Andy Zhang was just happy with the candy bars in the clubhouse.
  • A 17-year-old nudged his way into contention over the first three days before falling out of it on Sunday. Beau Hossler beat Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and a host of others. Again, you probably feel old.
  • Sergio Garcia beat the microphone, at least.
  • I heard "GET IN THE HOLE" approximately 3,280 times last week. It was stupid every time. However, "nice layup" was pretty awesome.
  • On Friday, the entourage following Tiger, Phil and Bubba inside the ropes was serenaded with "DISCOUNT DOUBLECHECK" all day. Aaron Rodgers was also walking around inside the ropes, enjoying the round as a fan. If you were wondering, he's a great guy. It was fun to BS with him for a while during the round.
  • Andy North's wife is a saint. Seriously, she was great to talk to and managed to power through 18+ holes on Friday with Rodgers -- who she was hosting -- and the rest of the massive entourage following the featured group (in 80-degree weather, as well).
  • The Burger Dogs at The Olympic Club are amazing. It's a burger patty in a dog. So simple, yet so delicious.
  • Miss u, In-N-Out.
  • That was USGA executive director Mike Davis grabbing the Bird Man on the 18th green during the trophy ceremony (if you missed it, video of the ca-cawing here). I watched Davis walk the course and set it up all week and he did pretty much everything at the U.S. Open, including playing security guard.

Basically, I spent a week following Tiger Woods, taking in the scene at The Olympic Club, tracking various fun stories and sitting on the 18th green, watching Webb Simpson finish up a round that would win him the tournament first, then sitting quietly as Graeme McDowell missed a putt to force a playoff. My whole body hurts (the course is an absolutely beast, and if there was a flat spot, I didn't find it) and I'm sunburned, but it was an incredible event to watch unfold.

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