US Open notes: Caddie’s mistake leads to 2-shot penalties for hitting wrong balls

calexander@newsobserver.comJune 13, 2014 

— Everyone makes mistakes in a U.S. Open. Bad shots, bad putts, wrong club selections.

But Hunter Mahan’s caddie made a big mistake Friday at Pinehurst No. 2.

John Wood mistakenly walked to the wrong ball after Mahan’s threesome teed off at the 18th hole. Mahan then played his next shot to the green – with Jamie Donaldson’s ball, as it turned out.

“Off the tee it looked like Hunter’s (ball) was in the left center and Jamie’s was on the left edge,” Wood said. “On the 18th green, Jamie looked at his ball. We could tell Hunter’s ball was closer (to the pin) and when we got to the green Jamie’s ball was much closer.

“That’s when we realized what had happened. It started to sink in.”

Mahan and Donaldson each were given a two-shot penalty, had to replay their second shots and took double-bogey 6s on the par-4 18th, their ninth hole of the round. Mahan’s 72 left him at 6-over 146, one shot higher than the cut line. Donaldson shot 81.

“I just hit the wrong ball,” Mahan said. “Off the tee, it looked like that’s where my ball should have been. It’s one of those fluke things. I couldn’t tell you how or why it happened. It was crazy.”

Wood was dejected after the round. Both balls were Titleists, he said, and both had similar markings.

“Hunter was great about it,” Wood said. “He wasn’t upset. It’s something I still can’t grasp. You’re out here every day for 17 years and you know where a ball goes in the fairways.”

But in an Open, mistakes happen.

Remember when?

As Martin Kaymer distanced himself from the field Friday with another 65, Fran Quinn still said he didn’t consider the tournament over.

Why? Gil Morgan, that’s why.

Quinn said he played in the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach when Morgan, an established PGA Tour player, became the first in history to get to double-digits under par in an Open. Morgan reached 12-under in the third round and had a huge lead.

And blew it. Tom Kite won the Open as Morgan went 77-81 on the weekend.

“Martin’s play has been absolutely phenomenal,” said Quinn, who had a 74 Friday after an opening 68. “But strange things happen. It’s the U.S. Open. It’s hard.

“He’s got to sleep on (a 6-shot) lead. He has to play with (a 6-shot) lead. Bottom line: it’s the U.S. Open and you have to play all four days to win.”

Quotable

“I’m not sure I’ve seen him play any better.”

– Philip Kaymer, Martin Kaymer’s older brother, after a second-round 65.

Name’s the same

There’s at least one Michael Campbell at Pinehurst this week. While the 2005 champion is not in attendance, Aberdeen’s Michael Campbell is here working for Fugazy International, which handles player and family transportation.

After taking some good-natured ribbing from his friends in 2005, this Michael Campbell was looking forward to running into that Michael Campbell this time around.

“I was hoping he was going to be here, especially since I might have had a chance to drive him around or meet him,” Campbell said.

So long, Bubba

Masters champion Bubba Watson said he’d probably have to go low Friday or he’d probably be going home.

He’s going home. And slightly disgruntled.

Watson stumbled to a 76 Thursday and bounced back for a 70 Friday for a 146 total. The cut was 145.

Watson left grumbling about the No. 2 renovations and large swath of native areas that line the fairways instead of Bermuda grass rough.

“I don’t know how you can call them ‘native’ areas. They are handmade,” he said.

Course tip

Anyone wanting a closeup view of the fifth green will have to do some work – and walking.

There are grandstands at the fifth green. To get there the path is: walk down right side of fourth fairway to the crosswalk, turn left and cross, turn right and walk 50 yards on left side of fifth fairway, take crosswalk across fifth fairway, take a left and walk 150 yards and then find a seat in the grandstands.

If it sounds like a bottleneck, that’s exactly what it is. You can see the play on the fifth green from the grandstands to the left of the sixth tee, but the best view is by the fifth green. On a hot day, it’s a hike.

Number to know

10 Jeff Maggert’s score on the par-5 fifth hole Friday.

Observation

A lot of people drive a lot of carts at golf tournaments, zipping about behind the ropes. Too many think they’re Jimmie Johnson. It will be interesting at tournament’s end to see how many spectators get whacked by the lead foots. Slow down.

Course conditions

The USGA reported about 1 inch of rain fell on the property Thursday night, causing washouts in the bunkers and sandy areas. It was said due to a big amount of debris, fairways and closely mowed areas around the greens were not mowed Friday morning.

According to the USGA, the green firmness “dropped to their lowest (softest) readings in more than a couple of weeks.” It said the green speeds were “just shy” of 12 feet on the USGA Stimpmeter, about a half-foot slower than the previous four days.

“I thought today’s setup was a lot harder,” Brooks Koepka said after a 68. “The pin locations were in some spots, just over knobs. If you got on the wrong side of the hole you were gone.”

Railroad stop

When it comes to capitalizing on the U.S. Open, the Aberdeen, Carolina & Western Railroad might have taken it to a new level. The railroad’s tracks run along Beulah Hill Road on the west side of the Pinehurst property and the railroad parked a train of its restored passenger cars along the driving range in full view of Open fans.

In addition to free advertising, it’s also a nod to Pinehurst’s history. The tracks run past the resort’s long-ago railroad station and once brought guests directly to the doorstep of the resort and the historic cars, like the No. 2 course, have been restored to their former glory.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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