SAN FRANCISCO — Welcome to the U.S. Open, kid.
Fourteen-year-old Andy Zhang became the youngest golfer to ever compete in the U.S. Open on Thursday, and it showed early on.
Zhang opened with a triple bogey on The Olympic Club’s first hole and followed that with a double bogey. He then added three consecutive bogeys before making his first par on No. 6.
He settled down to post 9-over-par 79. In fact, from Nos. 6 through 15, he played even par with one birdie, one bogey and eight pars.
He struggled with a double bogey at the par-5 16th, but closed with a birdie on the short 18th hole.
Zhang admitted to a case of nerves on the first tee.
“I was like, just please don’t hit a hundred-yard slice off the first tee and I was shaking really hard,” he said. “But I hit a great shot.”
But his drive found the rough, and he tried to use a 6-iron. The grass wrapped around the club and led to a triple bogey.
The native of the People’s Republic of China got into the field when Paul Casey withdrew.
“The course is really tough,” said Zhang, whose score tied world No. 1 Luke Donald on Thursday. “So I’m actually OK with what I shot today. At least I broke 80.”
LOCAL INTEREST: Augusta native Charles Howell salvaged a decent opening round Thursday by making eagle on the par-4 7th hole.
Howell, who started on the 9th tee, played his first 14 holes in 1-over fashion. Then he went bogey-double bogey at Nos. 5 and 6 before the eagle on the short hole. He closed with par for 2-over 72.
Blake Adams, who lives near Swainsboro, Ga., shot 72 in his major championship debut. Adams also started on No. 9 and played his first 10 holes in 1-over. He made a double bogey on the par-4 first hole, but bounced back with two birdies against one bogey.
BIG BUST: Thursday afternoon’s featured pairing of Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood – the top three golfers in the world rankings – did not produce.
The trio combined to shoot 19-over-par, with Westwood shooting 73. McIlroy, the defending champion, shot 77 and Donald struggled to 79.
“The top three the in the world and we make three (birdies) between us,” Donald said. “It shows how tough it is. They’re aren’t that many opportunities out there.”
ANOTHER ALBATROSS: Another major, another double eagle.
Louis Oosthuizen made one in the final round of the Masters on the par-5 second hole. On Thursday, Nick Watney did on the 522-yard 17th hole at Olympic.
Watney used a 5-iron for the 190-yard shot. The hole normally plays as a par-4 but was converted into a par-5 for
the Open. It is only the third double eagle in tournament history. The others were T.C. Chen (1985, Oakland Hills) and Shaun Micheel (2010, Pebble Beach).