SAN FRANCISCO - First it was Louis Oosthuizen, now Nick Watney. Golf fans sure wouldn’t mind seeing a double eagle at every major championship.
Watney, playing his second shot from the fairway on the par-5 17th at the Olympic Club Thursday, holed a 5-iron for golf’s rarest shot, what is believed to be only the third double eagle in US Open history.
He came to the 17th hole (the ninth of his opening round) at 3 over par. With one sweet swing, he climbed back to even, going from a tie for 73d to a tie for eighth in a matter of seconds.
Watney’s shot from 190 yards landed on the green, took a few bounces, then rolled 60 feet or so before trickling in.
“Obviously the shot on 17 was something I’ll always remember, and I’m pleased with the round,’’ said Watney, who shot 69 and was tied for second, three shots behind leader Michael Thompson. “It was kind of disbelief and joy, and it was really exciting.’’
Two other double eagles in the US Open are known, although US Golf Association officials acknowledge that early tournament records are sketchy. T.C. Chen made a double eagle at Oakland Hills in 1985, and Shaun Micheel made a 2 on the par-5 sixth hole at Pebble Beach in 2010.
Oosthuizen’s double eagle came in the final round at this year’s Masters, when he made a 2 on No. 2, a shot that pushed him into the lead. He eventually lost to Bubba Watson in a playoff.
Two majors, two albatrosses. Next month’s British Open, for those wondering, is at Royal Lytham.
Forgive Beau Hossler - 5 feet 1 inch, with a mouth full of braces - if he feels like a US Open veteran at the age of 17. But he is already making his second appearance in the event, having qualified and missed the cut (76-77) last year at Congressional.
He played like a veteran Thursday, shooting a 70 and putting his name on the leaderboard. His play this year is better - at least his nerves are - and that is directly attributable to last year.
Both times, he advanced through local and sectional qualifying.
“I was a lot less nervous - not saying I wasn’t nervous at all, because I was very nervous - but last year was pretty ridiculous,’’ said Hossler, who finished his junior year at Santa Margarita High School in Mission Viejo, Calif., last week. “It was good. I felt comfortable, though. I felt like I prepared myself well for the tournament.’’
Hossler had the lowest score among the eight amateurs, but the 79 shot by 14-year-old Andy Zhang was impressive and noteworthy. Zhang became the youngest player ever in a US Open, and couldn’t have started much worse: He made triple bogey on No. 1, doubled No. 2, and bogeyed his next three holes, pushing his score to 8 over after five.
But Zhang calmed down and played solid golf. He birdied the short par-4 seventh, and rolled in a closing birdie from the back fringe at the 18th.
“At least I broke 80,’’ Zhang said. “On the first tee, I was shaking really hard. But I hit a great shot. I’m actually OK with what I shot.’’
Allen on target
Of the more than 2,000 rounds that longtime member Michael Allen has played on Olympic Club’s Lake Course, he has never played a competitive one like Thursday’s US Open. He’d also never made an eagle on the par-4 eighth hole.
“It took me three years before I could actually get to the green in two,’’ said Allen. “This is great to play well in these conditions. And this is a completely different golf course than I played as a member.’’
Allen shot a 71, highlighted by the 2 he made on No. 8, when he holed a shot from the first cut of rough, 142 yards out.
Oregon’s football team has a seemingly endless supply of uniform combinations, with multiple color palettes of pants, shirts, and helmets to choose from. Sometimes, Casey Martin decides what the Ducks will wear, with the approval of his friend, Oregon football coach Chip Kelly. With Martin, Oregon’s golf coach, playing in the US Open for the first time since 1998, it was time for Kelly to make the uniform call. He is picking what Martin wears this week, and on Thursday he selected dark pants and a white shirt with large, neon-green horizontal stripes. Kelly was in Martin’s gallery, cheering on his fellow coach. Martin opened with a 74 . . . Keegan Bradley, the PGA champion and Hopkinton High graduate playing in his first US Open, had an up-and-down 73. Bradley made three birdies but had four bogeys, and doubled No. 14 . . . Kevin Na, sticking with the new, quicker pre-shot routine after his deliberate approach created so many issues at the Players Championship, held the early lead at 3 under through his first nine holes. But he played his final nine holes 7 over, signing for a 74.