Open: The Second Hand is Dealt

Yesterday, I used a poker analogy to describe what might be going through the players’ minds when they tee it up in the first round of a tournament, in this case, the Open. They’re playing at the CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, California.

When you first sit down at a big-time poker table, you just never know how the cards are going to run. When you tee it up in the first round of a PGA Tour event, you just never know how the birdies are going to fly.

And so our poster boy for the possibility of “greatness at any moment” was Aussie, Nick O’Hearn. In cool, rainy weather, he shot an astonishing, course record, 62. He hit it close all day long and after making a couple of confidence-building putts early in the round, made just about everything he looked at the rest of the day. He had nine birdies and no bogeys. Incredible.

But things were a little different in the second round. In describing his satisfaction with just shooting Even par given what he did yesterday, he said, “Yeah, I got it around.”

“I got it around,” is Tour Pro for, “Yeah, it wasn’t my best, I didn’t get much out of it, but I managed to post a decent score in spite of that. I didn’t kill my chances to win the tournament.” Here’s what he did say:

I would have taken [9-under for two days] to start on Thursday.  I left a few out there today.  Didn’t play obviously as well as yesterday.  Probably had nine more putts, so there’s the nine strokes.

I didn’t quite hit it as close as I did, but all in all I’m pleased.

And in his mind, he didn’t putt much differently than Thursday:

I had a lot of good putts today which didn’t go in.  It’s tough to expect those 20‑, 25‑footers to go in.  You just got to hit it close.

Yesterday I hit it close all day and made everything I looked at.  Today I putted basically the same but just got to hit it closer.

So how did he go from “owning the course” in lousy conditions to being a lot less productive the next?

Yeah, I was hoping for rain.  (Laughter.)

You know it’s always tough to back up a score like yesterday where everything just seemed to go right.  With a 5:00 am wake‑up call you’re not quite feeling as alert as I guess a 1:00 o’clock tee time.  I wasn’t as sharp today.  Pretty plain and simple.

I putted nicely, and that’s the key for me.  If level par is as bad as it gets, I’m pretty happy.

And he’s not kidding. He’s knows how low he can go as he’s currently playing, so why wouldn’t he be happy with what he feels would be the worst? He’s surely licking his chops for Satuday’s 10:50 tee time. He’ll be in the privacy of the next to last group with the leaders laboring away just one hole back.

And speaking of leaders, the leader is John Mallinger. Out of Long Beach State in 2007, he still lives in Long Beach. So maybe all of that perpetual sunshine helped him to shoot his own 62 on Friday. He called it “magical” and the media wondered how often he had those magical days?

Well, it’s only the second time I’ve shot 62 in seven years out here, so not very often.  Any time you get it that low everything was kind of clicking.  Drove it great, irons were great, and made putts.

Once a year probably.  Hopefully more often than not.

But in his case, he does a little “behind the curtain” work to induce that magic a little more often:

I try to just remember how I’m playing, how I’m thinking and how I’m playing, and just try to repeat that any time I get back in that situation.

Usually you’re not thinking about much.  You’re just kind of playing and you end up with 62.  It’s just one of those days where everything just kind of clicks and you just roll with it.

In other words, if you just stop thinking about results and stop working so hard at it, you free yourself up to just be in the moment with the golf.

And one of the ways to induce that is to just stay in “the process:”

You know, it’s difficult.  I’ve been out here six years and I haven’t won yet.  Been close a lot of times:  lost in a playoff, bunch third places.

If I just keep staying in that process, keep doing what I’m doing — I can’t do anything against the field.  I can just play as well as I can.  I would love to say it is something different, but it’s really not.  It’s all just believing in yourself.

Hopefully I get the same good thoughts going into the weekend.

Is the challenge to keep the same mindset of Thursday and Friday on Saturday and Sunday?  What makes the weekend difficult?  It’s still the same course; you still have the same thoughts.

Yeah, you know, obviously I think the pins might be a little bit different Saturday, Sunday.  Usually a little tougher on Sunday.  Just the pressure of being in that situation and handling it correctly.

I feel like I’m close.  I don’t think I would be up here if I wasn’t.  I’m not going to go into the weekend scared.  I’m going to play as hard as I can and compete as hard as I can.

Jhonattan Vegas is still right there. He added a 4-under to Thursday’s 6-under to get to 10, T2 and 4 stokes back of Mallinger. He was joined by third-year player, Billy Horschel, who did it the other way, first the 67 and then the 65. This is a good step for him because he’s trying to regain his full status for next year.

O’Hearn is T4 at 9-under along with Nicolas Colsaerts, the long-hitting Belgian trying to parlay earning his way onto the Ryder Cup team into a PGA Tour card. They are joined by journeyman Scott Dunlap who shot yet another magical score; his was a 63.

I promise you, they are all saying that the course is not this easy! Must be something in that California water.

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