Henrik Norlander set for his first major championship




PINEHURST, N.C. — Henrik Norlander has excelled on the big stage, helping Augusta State win back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011.

But when Norlander tees off this morning in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, he’s not sure what to expect in his first major championship.

“I don’t think you can compare (the two),” Norlander said Wednesday. “(The NCAA) was amateur golf. This is a lot bigger.”

Norlander tees off in one of the first groups, going off the 10th tee at 6:45 a.m. with Lucas Bjerregaard and Rob Oppenheim. Such is life for a first-time U.S. Open participant.

Norlander shot consecutive rounds of 70 to win the sectional qualifier at Roswell, Ga., last week. With only two spots available, Norlander delivered some of his best golf of the year to punch his ticket to Pinehurst.

He arrived in North Carolina on Sunday and has practiced at the famed Donald Ross layout every day. He only played nine holes Wednesday, then spent time on the range and putting green.

“Yeah, I like it,” he said. “It’s brutal but it’s a great golf course.”

Patience will be the key, Norlander said.

“It’s a second shot golf course, which I like,” he said. “You can hit two perfect shots and still not be on the green. If you start getting frustrated or think you’re unlucky, you won’t have a chance here.”

Norlander has spent plenty of time this week with fellow Swede Henrik Stenson, who is the No. 2-ranked player in the world.

“He’s been extremely helpful, actually,” Norlander said. “I’m glad I got to spend some time with him. He’s a superstar, but doesn’t act like one.”

After playing the PGA Tour in 2013, Norlander is on the Web.com Tour this season. His best finish in 10 starts was a tie for third in the Chile Classic.

He thinks the experience as a professional will help him this week.

“I played a full year on the PGA Tour last year, and I think it’s pretty similar,” he said. “There’s a lot more people around, but it’s pretty much the same deal.”

Norlander chose to live in Augusta after college, and he expects a contingent of family and friends to begin arriving for tournament play.

“None so far, which has been pretty nice,” he said. “I’ve been able to do my own thing.”

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