By Allan Kelly ,AFP
SAN FRANCISCO — Chinese teenager Andy Zhang saw his U.S. Open dream rapidly turn into a nightmare when he teed off at San Francisco’s Olympic Club on Thursday. At 14 and 1/2 years, the Beijing-born, but Florida-based Zhang is believed to be the youngest player ever to compete in the U.S. Open which was first held in 1895. And his lack of experience at this level and on such a demanding layout was cruelly exposed from the off as he opened triple-double bogey followed by three more bogeys to stand at a morale-sapping eight over after just five holes. Zhang steadied the ship somewhat after that, but he still had to settle for a nine over 79, birdieing the 18th to duck under 80. That left him languishing just above the bottom rung of the leaderboard and with little or no hope of making the cut. Sounding slightly shell-shocked, but not too distraught, Zhang — who made it into the field only on Monday after being the fifth alternate through qualifying — admitted that he had been up against it throughout his round. “It was really tough,” he said. “On the first tee I was like, just please don’t hit a hundred yard slice off the first tee, and I was shaking really hard. But I hit a great shot.
“After that I didn’t hit the ball quite well, but my putting was OK. The course is really tough. So I’m actually OK with what I shot today. At least I broke 80. “I shot eight over in the first five holes, and then I made that par and then kind of got like a start, knew how to play golf a little bit after that.”
The picture was very different for another teenage amateur in the shape of 17-year-old Beau Hossler from San Diego. He came in with a tremendous par-70, which left him near the top of the leaderboard and just one stroke back from Tiger Woods. The difference for Hossler compared to Zhang was that the American was playing in his second U.S. Open, having qualified for last year’s tournament at Congressional, Washington as a 16-year-old. Asked if he had been surprised by the way he had performed on such a big stage, having gone out early in the day’s first grouping, a confident Hossler replied: “Not at all. “I’ve been playing really well lately. I expected myself to go out there and get a lot out of my round. I still left a few out there but you have to accept that, it’s the U.S. Open it’s going to happen.”