PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Ty Tryon chipped high over the green, sent several hard shots well past the pin and left a few short.
He was all over the place on No. 14 during a practice round Tuesday at Pebble Beach Golf Links, considered among the toughest holes at this U.S. Open.
“That’s a crazy one,” Tryon said several hours later, once done for the day. “I was fairly perplexed there for a minute. Hopefully, I’m not back behind the green there.”
That image, of balls spraying every which way, provided a fitting picture of Tryon’s up-and-down golf career.
The former teen phenom who turned pro at 16, flopped and lost his PGA Tour card is ready to soak in the experience of his first major, finally at age 26 and after quite a road – including a cross country drive to the Northern California coast after qualifying – to get here.
This is the start of what Tryon hopes is a successful comeback.
“I believe this is a good chance,” he said. “A lot of things can fall into place if you play well here.”
He is good-naturedly accepting the added attention this week, knowing his return to golf’s big stage provides a feel-good story for the tournament. Still, he knows he needs to bring his best game to compete here.
“That’s all I can do,” Tryon said. “I’m embracing whatever’s coming my way. I realize it’s an interesting story, but when it’s time to play golf I have to play the best I can play. I don’t have to worry about it being any bigger. It can’t be any bigger than the U.S. Open, and this is the biggest tournament I’ve played.”
Tryon spent a little extra time trying to figure out the tricky par-5, 580-yard 14th – Pebble’s longest hole.
“That’s real tough, toughest hole on the course,” his caddie, local Pebble looper Bob “Rocket” Lytle, said. “A lot of extra practice there.”
Tryon’s tee shot on the 15th landed in the first cut of the rough just off the fairway and some 30 yards short of the lies by playing partners Marc Leishman and Dan McCarthy.
After his trouble on 14, Tryon settled down and finished strong the rest of his round. He only played nine holes because his partners decided to stop at that point on a day when play was slow and the conditions were chilly and challenging.
So, Tryon instead headed for the driving range for a long hitting session and then to get himself a backup set of wedges and a new 3-wood.
Little fazes Tryon these days. He’s seen it all in this game.
“I’m glad to be in a good frame of mind,” Tryon said. “Yesterday, if I’d hit those bad shots, I would have been frustrated. Bad things are going to happen. You’ve just got to deal with them. There have been a couple of quintuple-bogeys on the PGA Tour this year. I hope I get through (14) unscathed.
“I had a really good practice. A couple spots out there are really difficult. It’s the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, a couple spots are impossible. I haven’t played an event in six years that has that much green sloping difficulty.”
Tryon has come a long way since those early days as a teen prodigy with a hefty Callaway endorsement deal, when he earned his card at Q-school while still in high school. He’s married to wife Hanna and they have a 3-year-old son, Tyson.
No sponsorships now, though he still plays with the Callaway equipment he prefers.
During the Open practice rounds, Hanna is right there alongside her husband near the tee box or green to watch every shot, then walks with him down the fairway to retrieve his ball.
They sported nearly identical black windbreaker sweat suits on a cool, breezy morning by the ocean Tuesday. Tryon’s spiky brown hair stood up through his black visor, and dark shades covered his eyes for much of his round even with the gray skies.
The couple’s son passed the time at the Pebble Beach daycare.
“It’s very emotional. I wasn’t with him when he was very young and successful,” Hanna said. “All the strides he’s made are amazing. It’s surreal. It’s been quite a roller coaster ride – a lot of ups and downs. We never know what the next day will bring and just take it as it comes.”
Hanna described her husband as “very relaxed and upbeat” as he prepares for Thursday’s opening round.
Leaning on a club, he playfully pushed Lytle’s right shoulder while waiting his turn at the 17th tee – then took more than a dozen practice swings before hitting for real.
“Down, down,” he yelled at his ball.
Tryon had what seemed to be unlimited potential a decade ago when he burst on the scene, making the cut in two PGA Tour events at age 16.
Early on, big galleries followed his every move. At the Honda Classic in March 2001, at 16 he became the youngest player in 44 years to make a cut in a tour event. Playing professional golf was all he dreamed about.
By 2003, he missed the cut in 17 of 21 events. He wasn’t any better on the Nationwide Tour the next year, failing to make the cut in 16 of 22 tournaments. Tryon has been bouncing in and out of the minor tours trying to work his way back to his former form.
A 10th-place tie at Bay Hill in March 2003 is his best finish.
Tryon shot a 138 in his sectional qualifier to get here, then drove from Maryland to Pebble Beach.
“I was playing a sectional outside of Washington, D.C., and I was planning on going back home to Orlando and then find a flight later in the week,” Tryon said. “I hadn’t told my wife, but I woke up about 6 a.m., and I’m like, ‘Are you ready?’ When we were heading out to the highway, I went northwest and I’m like, ‘No, we’re going to go.”
His supporting cast plans to enjoy this picturesque setting right along with the golf.
“It’s just a very exciting time for us as a family,” Hanna Tryon said. “I really couldn’t be more happy for him. He’s persevered and been through a lot. He’s come back from a lot. For him to be here is quite an achievement.”
If Tryon has his way, it won’t stop at Pebble Beach.