Notebook: Steady Grace Plays His Way Into Contention
By Bill Fields
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Positioned alongside several high-profile Americans on the U.S. Open leader board going into the weekend is 27-year-old South Africa native Branden Grace. He shot one of the day’s best rounds, a 3-under 67, to share third place with Dustin Johnson at 4-under 136, one stroke behind co-leaders Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
A two-time winner this season on the PGA European Tour, Grace is comfortable at Chambers Bay.
“It’s about trying to stay patient and take the chances when they come your way,” Grace said of his strategy. “If you start forcing some things, it’s going to bite you. If you get in trouble, take your medicine and try and make the bogey and keep the doubles and triples off the scorecard.”
Grace has walked the walk through 36 holes, having made nothing worse than a bogey. On the 50th anniversary of fellow South African Gary Player’s U.S. Open victory, Grace has put himself in position to challenge for his first major title. He has played in 12 previous majors without much success, a tie for 18th place in the 2013 Masters his best result.
“Every golfer who teed it up this week, all our dreams are to win majors,” Grace said. “This is something I’ve dreamed of. This is something I’ve prepared for. This is something I’ve practiced for. The opportunity is nice – it depends if you take it or not.”
Day Battles Dizzy Spell on Final Hole
Jason Day completed 36 holes of the U.S. Open Friday at 2-under 138, but the conclusion of his round was anything but routine.
The No. 10 player in the Official World Golf Ranking, Day became dizzy and fell on the steep fairway as he approached the ninth green at Chambers Bay, his final hole of the day. Day lay on the ground for several minutes while medical personnel came to his aid. After a delay, Day, 27, of Australia, played his second shot from a greenside bunker to 12 feet. He two-putted for a bogey to shoot 70, signed his scorecard and walked with assistance to a nearby cart.
Day’s agent, Bud Martin, said in a statement: “Jason was diagnosed to have suffered from benign positional vertigo. He was treated locally by Dr. Robert Stoecker and Dr. Charles Souliere and is resting comfortably. His condition is being monitored closely and he is hopeful he will be able to compete this weekend in the final rounds of the U.S. Open. He wants to thank all who treated him at the Franciscan Medical Group and thank all of the fans and friends who have reached out to him and his family.”
It isn’t the first time that Day has battled dizziness. He withdrew last month prior to the AT&T Byron Nelson and during the final round of last year’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
In a pre-championship news conference at Chambers Bay, Day said he has been tested extensively in recent weeks to try to pinpoint why he had not been feeling 100 percent.
“I had three sleep studies done. I had a lot of blood tests done. I had an MRI on my head and neck,” Day said. “And everything came back negative.”
Tiger Posts Worse Major Score of His Career
With a 6-over 76 on Friday, Tiger Woods wrapped up his worst performance in a major championship and missed the cut in a major for the fifth time in his pro career.
Woods’ 16-over-par total for 36 holes surpassed his 12-over total at Winged Foot in 2006, the only previous time he had failed to make the cut in a U.S. Open.
The three-time U.S. Open champion, who last won the championship in 2008 at Torrey Pines, struggled at Chambers Bay. He hit 16 of 28 fairways, 21 of 36 greens in regulation and had 73 putts.
“On a golf course like this, you get exposed and you have to be precise and dialed in,” Woods said. “And obviously I didn’t have that. I need to get a little better for the British Open. I’ll just continue practicing, continue working on it. And hopefully it will get a little better.”
Woods has played in six tournaments in 2015, his best finish being a tie for 17th at the Masters. His first-round 80 at Chambers Bay was his third round of 80 or higher this season.
University Place, Wash., native Michael Putnam, who shot an opening-round 70, couldn’t conjure any magic despite his local knowledge in the second round. The 32-year-old shot 77 to miss the cut. “I played well yesterday and expected to play well today,” Putnam said, “and get out there today and basically goose-egg it. And when you do that at a U.S. Open, they are going to expose your weaknesses.” … Englishman Jason Palmer plays pitches and chips from within 50 yards of the flagstick with only his right arm, a technique he adapted when he got the short-game yips. Palmer said the unusual method didn’t draw any quips from members of the gallery at Chambers Bay. “Nobody’s really commented on it,” said Palmer, who is known as the “One-Armed Bandit” on the PGA European Tour. “I made a good up-and-down on 14 today. I guess everybody was in shock by it.” … It was a rough second round for 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, who recorded a front-nine 47 en route to shooting 83. It is the fourth straight year he has missed the cut in the U.S. Open. … Five eagles on the drivable par-4 12th hole helped make the 284-yarder the easiest hole in the second round with a 3.474 stroke average.
Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.