US Open: Mixed bag for Sandy Scott on major debut

Scottish amateur forced to settle for opening five-over 75, one shot more than Bob MacIntyre

Thursday, 17th September 2020, 8:58 pm
Updated Friday, 18th September 2020, 7:35 am
Sandy Scott of Scotland plays his shot from the second tee during the first round of the US Open at Winged Foot. Picture: Gregory Shamus/Getty
Sandy Scott of Scotland plays his shot from the second tee during the first round of the US Open at Winged Foot. Picture: Gregory Shamus/Getty

On a day of amateur dramatics led by American Davis Thompson, Sandy Scott squandered a “good start” on his major debut by leaving himself “too much work” on the back nine at Winged Foot in the opening round of the US Open.

After knocking in a four-footer for birdie at the par-5 ninth in the company of fellow Scot Bob MacIntyre, then converting a 10-footer at the 11th for another gain to move to one-under, Scott found himself proudly sitting inside the top 10.

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The 22-year-old from Nairn looked to be taking the biggest test of his career so far in his stride before a bogey-6 at the long 12th then a double-bogey 6 two holes later seemed to knock his confidence. That’s not a good thing when you are faced with three tough par-4s to finish, with bogeys at each of them leaving the world No 6 having to settle for a five-over 75, one more than MacIntyre.

“I got off to a good start, played the front nine nice and solid, hit plenty of fairways and greens, gave myself a few good looks,” said Scott afterwards. “Started to miss a few fairways coming in on the back nine and kind of gave myself too much work, really, was scrambling for pars and made some bogeys and stuff. There was certainly some good golf in there, but, yeah, always tomorrow.”

Scott’s only other appearance in a professional event was a much easier test at Dundonald Links in the 2017 Scottish Open. “Conditions are very fair,” he added. “They’re tough for sure. You’ve just got to stay out of the rough and be smart with your approach play, and putting is certainly difficult.

“I feel like I hit it well. Just fractionally off line coming in on the back. So I don’t think there’s much wrong. I’ll keep practice light this afternoon and be ready for tomorrow.”

MacIntyre, who finished joint-sixth in last year’s Open before making the cut in the US PGA Championship last month, started his US Open debut in style, hitting his approach stiff for a birdie at the first. He’d pledged $3,500 for every birdie or better this week to his alma mater, McNeese State University in Louisiana, to help with the clean up operation following Hurricane Laura, so that was immediately up and running.

The tally was boosted to $10,500 after further birdies at the ninth and 11th, but, on a day when he only hit 21 per cent of fairways, a double-bogey early on followed by four bogeys took the shine off that effort for the 24-year-old from Oban.

“It was great,” said Scott of being in the company of his former Scotland team-mate. “I’ve played with Robert plenty of times and that certainly made it more comfortable for me. Didn’t feel necessarily like the US Open with no fans, but, yeah, he helped for sure.”

Connor Syme, the third Scot in the 144-strong field and also making his debut in the USGA event, failed to get his round finished due to darkness descending after being out in one of the final groups.

The 25-year-old Fifer dropped five shots in the first seven holes in a shaky start before finding his feet to reel off 10 pars in a row to sit alongside Scott with a hole to play.

Thompson, a 21-year-old who finished just outside the top 20 in the RSM Classic on the PGA Tour earlier this year, ended up much happier than Scott with his day overall after carding a 69 to tie the lowest round ever at Winged Foot by an amateur.

“I’m not here to be a tourist,” he said after an effort that was illuminated by four birdies around the turn. “I am here to compete and, though it was a rough finish (dropping three shots late on), I showed I can do that with the best.”

Davis Thompson and John Pak, who also came in with a 69 later in the day, joined Bobby Jones (1929) and Jay Sigel (1984) as the only amateurs to break par in a US Open at Winged Foot.

Another of the 13 amateurs in the field, China’s Chun An Yu, chipped in for an eagle at the sixth as he opened with a 70, while Spaniard Eduard Rousasd holed out for a 2 at his opening hole in a spectacular start.

Irishman James Sugrue, last year’s Amateur champion after beating Euan Walker in the final at Portmarnock, had a tough day as he had to settle for a 78 after going out in 40.

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