PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Jim Herman approached the 18th tee Sunday at Pebble Beach and pondered his chances for the lowest round at this year’s U.S. Open.
There was the possibility of topping Tiger Woods and final-round leader Dustin Johnson, who each shot a sizzling 5-under 66 on Saturday. Herman also had a chance to one-up Phil Mickelson’s 66 in the second round Friday.
So Herman pulled out his driver and decided to go for it. Why not? Anything to forget that awful 10-over 81 he shot Saturday.
Herman needed a birdie on No. 18, a challenging par-5, to finish at 65. The plan quickly went south – well, west, really. His tee shot hooked left toward the ocean, and it sailed over the concrete seawall to the rocks below. Herman, still holding out hope of recovering on the final hole, hurried down to find his ball. He found several, none of them his own.
He returned to the tee already with a 3, and by the time he finally finished he had double-bogey and a 3-under 68. He was 14-over 298 for the tournament.
“Low round in the tournament definitely was in my mind going into the back nine,” he said. “I definitely knew it. I watched Phil’s round. I knew where I was and what it was. I was trying to do it, what else do I have but to go for a record?”
Herman overcame a bogey on the second with a pair of eagles on Nos. 4 and 6 and a trio of birdies. Fans Mike Portier and James Kater of San Jose caught up with Herman’s group on No. 2 with plans of watching Mike Weir – but Herman’s play quickly caught their attention. Time to cheer on an underdog making good.
“Because this guy was shooting the round of the tournament,” Portier said.
Even his disappointing 18th couldn’t spoil Herman’s first Father’s Day. His wife, Carolyn, and 8 1/2 -month-old daughter, Abigail, were on hand all week to support him.
“It was pretty awesome, two eagles in a span of three holes,” Herman said. “Another birdie on 7, which just topped it off. It was just a great day. I’m glad I could come back after yesterday. Yesterday was pretty painful to take being in my first Open. I had a lot of support from my family. We all joked about it last night. I just wanted to come out and show that I could really play out here, and I think I did that today.”
TIE FOR TOP AMATEUR: Reigning NCAA champion Scott Langley of Illinois and University of Georgia star Russell Henley shared the distinction of top amateur at the U.S. Open. Each finished 8-over 292 and in a tie for 16th.
They combined for the best finish by amateurs since Spencer Levin tied for 14th in 2003. Langley and Henley are among eight other amateurs to finish in the top 20 since 1970.
He slapped hands with several supporters along the ropes between the 16th green and 17th tee. Henley acknowledged as many of the people as he could along the way, with smiles, waves, tips of his visor.
Approaching the 18th green to a roaring standing ovation, he pulled out his best one yet: He waved his visor, put his hand to his ear and raised both arms up signaling for more.
This guy could ham it up and still play great golf.
“It’s not very often you get to play in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. It was awesome,” Henley said. “You can’t take anything like this for granted. … I tried to have a ball out there.”
Henley stood at the 18th tee looking out at Carmel Bay when his caddie and big brother, Adam, put his arm around the golfer. Talk about a special moment for these two boys from Macon, Ga.
“It’s such a famous hole and the culmination of this whole week has just been magical,” said Adam, who at 32 is 11 years older. “What we kept talking about today is what a beautiful course it is and how everybody is cheering for him.”
All week, Adam told his brother to enjoy the experience. Their parents were there waiting at the end.
Tom Watson played behind Henley and offered “nice play” congratulations at the scorer’s trailer afterward.
“You, too,” Henley said.
While Henley was somewhat surprised how many fans knew who he was – “I guess they read the pairings sheet” – many more might be watching for him now.
“I’m just some kid from Macon,” he said.
“I think they know his name now,” Adam said.
CONGRESSIONAL BOUND: The USGA changed the rules for the 2010 Open making just the top 10 finishers, and ties, exempt for next year’s championship at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.
Those guaranteed a spot: Graeme McDowell, Gregory Havret, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, Brandt Snedeker, Martin Kaymer, Alex Cejka and Dustin Johnson.
LOCAL BOY: A beaming Erick Justesen pulled off his white hat after putting out on 18 and emphatically waved it to a cheering crowd.
“Way to go Erick!” several people yelled.
He took off his glove, signed that and gave it away, then he signed some more.
Justesen was a regular caddie at Pebble Beach from 2003-05. Now, he’s a pro who just played his first U.S. Open in the picturesque place he used to work.
“It’s unreal,” Justesen said. “I hit dozens of bad shots, and you just look around and you care a little less about the bad shots and a little more about the situation you’re in. It’s pretty surreal.”
Just because he’s spent countless hours on this challenging oceanside course didn’t mean he had much of an advantage this week.
“I played solid today. Man, I still feel like I could have done better,” said Justesen, a 25-year-old from Sacramento. “It was a different course this week. A lot had changed. The faster the greens get, there are so many angulations out here the more the greens change. They were putting pins in spots you never see them. It was a different golf course.”
Some of his former college golf teammates from nearby Cal State University-Stanislaus cheered him as he finished and were there to greet him after he went through the scoring trailer. He saw people he knew from Sacramento all over the course, too.
“It was a great opportunity to be among these guys and play against them, to carry over some confidence and really be like, ‘Hey, I can do this.’ I feel like a local boy. It’s pretty nice. That was my favorite part of the week, just all the people and people cheering you on. I dig that stuff. That’s fun.”
GOING IT ALONE: Pablo Martin made his way around Pebble Beach early Sunday morning in a tidy 2 hours, 39 minutes – one of the advantage of playing alone.
With an odd number of players making the cut, one lone golfer was sent off by himself each of the final two mornings. Ty Tryon did it Saturday.
Like Tryon, Martin declined the option of having a “marker” play with him, choosing the faster route as part of his 8-over 79 that left the Spaniard 29 over for the tournament. He walked off the green at 18 to chants of “Pablo, Pablo,” following a double-bogey on the closing hole.
“Me and my caddie, it was a nice walk, checking the course. Pretty cool. It’s so nice over here in Pebble Beach. I’m happy we can get to play for free,” Martin said. “The best memory I’m going to have of this week? It’s the first time to play Pebble Beach. It was a fun week even though I played crap. Sometimes, it goes that way and sometimes, it goes the other way.”
PRIZE PURSE: The $7.5 million purse is the same for the third straight year, with the winner taking home $1.35 million. The amount for the champion hasn’t increased for the third year in a row, the first time that has happened since 1968-71.
Sunday’s runner-up was set to receive $810,000, while third place earns $480,687.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Former PGA champ Shaun Micheel had quite the back-to-back on his front nine Sunday. Micheel was in a three-way tie for the lead after the opening round before falling out of contention with forgettable rounds of 77 and 75.
He’ll certainly remember his final day.
Micheel made a rare double-eagle at the par-5 sixth hole, draining his second shot from the fairway on the uphill 523-yard hole. Those two shots he gained disappeared just as quickly, as Micheel made a double-bogey on the 92-yard 7th.