BETHESDA, Md. – Ernie Els stood in a foyer just inside the clubhouse, along a wall adorned with photos and other mementos from his 1997 U.S. Open victory.
He wasn’t in the mood to reminisce, not after missing the cut in the championship’s return to Congressional.
“Fourteen years ago, I was in a different position,” he said. “Missing the cut now, I’m a little bit older, I’m (turning) 42 this year, and obviously things aren’t going my way right now. It’s been a long time. I’ve had a lot of success the last 14 years from ’97 to now.
“Right now, I’m just as low as I’ve ever been, and that’s the fact.”
Els missed a tap-in on his first hole Friday and wound up 4-putting the hole. His rounds of 73 and 75 put him two shots below the cut line at 4-over 146 when the suspended second round concluded Saturday morning. The two-time champion has missed the cut in four of his last six tournaments and is running out of ways to solve his wayward putting game.
“I maybe should take some time off, and see where I’m at,” he said. “I’m working hard and I’m not getting anything out of it, so maybe I should just go away for a while.”
2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink and Adam Scott missed the cut after each bogeyed his last hole to go to 5 over. That means the tournament is also over for Scott’s caddie, Steve Williams, who isn’t used to getting the weekend off when he carries the bag for Tiger Woods.
The 2003 U.S. Open winner Jim Furyk (149) is also done, as is Colombia’s Camilo Villegas (149), the only player who had made the cut in the last 12 majors. U.S. Amateur champ Peter Uihlein (150) will sit out the weekend for his second major in a row.
Bubba Watson birdied the difficult No. 18 to make the cut, saving the weekend for the foursome who made the send-up, poke-fun-at-golf video this week. The other three in the group –Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler, and Hunter Mahan – have the weekend to think up another parody.
Hold That Room: After shooting a 79 in the first round of his first U.S. Open, Marcel Siem already had plans for a quick exit after missing the cut.
The only thing is, he didn’t miss the cut.
The 30-year-old German roared back Friday to card a 66, putting him at 3 over and guaranteeing a spot for the weekend.
“Next week is BMW Open in Munich, home tournament,” Siem said, “and I thought if you miss the cut, then at least catch the flight tonight at 10 o’clock and be ready for next week.”
Still, just in case, he told his hotel to save his room.
“It’s a nice balcony room,” he said. “They said, ‘Yeah, we’ll wait for you. Hopefully you’ll come back.’ I will be back tonight.”
So how did he turn his game around so quickly in 24 hours?
“All of a sudden, I found my rhythm on the greens, and that helps,” he said. “And my long game was really, really good, as well. I hit them really close, and I think that’s the key here.”
Golf, Bureaucracy and Lemonade: It was a case of bureaucracy run amok, at least from the perspective of the children operating a lemonade stand for charity near the U.S. Open.
Kids from two families put up the stand on private property – a neighbor’s yard that just happens to be on a corner across from a spectator entrance to Congressional. During Thursday’s first round, they received three visits from county officials, twice with a warning. The third time, a citation was issued for operating the stand without a permit. It carried a fine of up to $500 and required a court appearance.
“Does every kid now that sells lemonade have to register with the county?” Carrie Marriott, whose children were hawking the drinks, asked a county official in an exchange caught on video by WUSA-TV.
The answer: yes. In theory, every lemonade stand in every private yard is supposed to have a permit. It’s a law that’s not usually enforced, but Montgomery County spokeswoman Bonnie Ayers said this particular stand could create a safety hazard in an area where police want to keep vehicular and pedestrian traffic moving during the tournament.
“This was just not a good corner for them to be attracting people,” Ayers said, “and they did not have a permit.”
Since fining kids over a lemonade stand can be a public relations nightmare, a deal was worked out. On Friday, the stand was moved down the street and the citation was rescinded. The county also waived the need for a permit, which would have cost about $38.
A homemade sign at the old location announced: “Grand Reopening: 25 Feet Down.”
“We were pleased there was a resolution,” said Rene Augustine, who has three children manning the stand. “It’s been a lesson for them, probably more in entrepreneurship than philanthropy.”
Augustine said the plan had been to donate 50 percent of the proceeds to Just Tryan It, a nonprofit that helps children with cancer. Now it’s all going to charity.
The stand is more elaborate than most. There’s a canopy and plenty of coolers of bottled lemonade. By mid-afternoon, the children had raked in a good haul, including a $250 check from a man who heard of their plight.
“That was very uplifting to the kids,” Augustine said, “because yesterday was kind of a tough day for them.”
Quite the Kid: Patrick Cantlay hardly looked like an amateur on the back nine Friday at the U.S. Open.
Doesn’t matter. He intends to remain one.
The 19-year-old American birdied Nos. 10, 11 and 12 – supposedly the most brutal stretch of the Blue Course – then picked up strokes at the 16th and 17th. He finished with a 67, which, combined with his first-round 75, puts him at even par at the halfway point.
“I had some confidence before I came here this week, but, yeah, it definitely makes you feel good about the future,” Cantlay said, “and hopefully one day I can be playing as a pro.”
But not anytime soon. He just finished his first year of studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and he said he plans to stay until he graduates.
“I have three more years,” he said.
On June 5, as winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation’s top college golfer, he posed with the Golden Bear himself.
Dinwiddie's Other Open: Sure, Robert Dinwiddie relishes the opportunity of playing in a U.S. Open. Now if he could just find a way into that other Open.
“Two out of three for this one,” he said, “and then none out of 13 for the British.”
The 28-year-old Briton – born in Scotland, now living in England – has failed in 13 attempts at qualifying for the marquee event in his home country.
He made the cut at Torrey Pines in 2008 and tied for 36th. He struggled this week at Congressional with rounds of 78 and 74, in part because of recent back problems.
“I wasn’t able to practice coming in, so I was a little rusty,” he said. “It’s a great experience. Disappointing I wasn’t able to do a bit better.”
But it would be an even better experience to be in the field next month at Royal St. George’s. Qualifying has come and gone – again with no success – but there are still spots available based on top finishers in upcoming European Tour events.
“We’ll see,” he said. “There’s still a chance.”
Pan Handling His First Open: At one end there’s Rory McIlroy, who is making the Blue Course look almost easy. At the other end, there are golfers like Taiwan’s Pan Cheng-tsung, a 19-year-old amateur playing in his first U.S. Open.
Pan, who attends the University of Washington, followed a promising first round of 74 with a 78 on Friday.
“It gives me an appreciation,” said Pan, who took up the game in his home town of Miaoli, Taiwan, where his mother worked as a caddie. “McIlroy is 11 under right now and I’m 10 over? Twenty-one shots difference? That’s a lot. And the course is hard, as everyone knows. But there’s still a way to play these courses, so I think I’ll work harder in the future, just trying to get better.”
Rock Stays Solid: Surely, Robert Rock was going to crash in the second round of the U.S. Open, having made it through the first round fueled by adrenaline and not much else after visa problems made him a last-minute arrival.
Instead, the Englishman was solid again. He followed up his 70 with an even-par 71 on Friday and will stick around for the weekend.
“I ran out of energy after nine holes, to be honest,” he said. “I’m 1 under for the tournament, which is OK, but I feel like I should have got through the second nine in 2 or 3 under. I knew I’d run out of energy at some point.”
Rock didn’t secure his visa for his flight to the United States until Wednesday afternoon, the delay caused by an alcohol-related driving incident when he was a teenager. He arrived in Maryland in the wee hours of Thursday.