Michael Quagliano Final U.S. Open Diary
My Week at the U.S. Open
By Michael Quagliano as told to Dan Berger
Editor’s note: Michael Quagliano, 21, of Ardsley, N.Y., was one of eight amateurs who competed in the 108th U.S. Open Championship at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California. Quagliano is the captain of the golf team at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and has several local victories to his credit, including the 2003 Met Junior and 2002 MGA/MetLife Boys Championship, as well as the 2007 Westchester Amateur.
Quagliano was the first alternate in U.S. Open local qualifying held at Manhattan Woods Golf Club in West Nyack, N.Y., and received a call from the USGA on Thursday, May 29, with the news that he had made the sectional qualifying field in Memphis, Tennessee on Monday, June 2. Quagliano shot 68-64 in Memphis, the second-best score of a field loaded with PGA Tour players, and punched his ticket to the U.S. Open. This is his final entry in what has been a very popular feature of mgagolf.org throughout U.S. Open week.
Saturday, June 14: What A Week it Was
Well, there was some good news despite the fact that my second-round 81 ensured that I missed the cut at the U.S. Open: I finally made a birdie! It was actually our group’s only birdie of the day, and it came on the par-four 10th hole when I rolled in a 10-foot putt. I felt much looser and more in control of my emotions the entire day. I also found out it is very difficult at a U.S. Open to have a 2:32 PM tee time — it got darker and harder to see for my last few holes, especially since the Marine Layer was back and the sky was cloudy.
My driving accuracy was very good… the USGA statistics showed that I hit more than 60 percent of the fairways, which was above average. I ended up with eight one-putts and had a total of 29 putts in Round 2. I was able to play 36 holes and only have one three-putt. I also got some revenge on the seventh hole for the quadruple bogey 8 that I scored there in the first round, as I hit my best drive of the day, over 300 yards, and then only needed a 9-iron for my approach. I ended up tapping in for par.
It was great that the grandstands were mostly full until our last few holes as it was fun to play in these very difficult conditions in front of many spectators. I always knew where the Tiger/Phil/Adam Scott group was on the course, as the roars from the crowd following that group echoed across the canyons to the other side of the golf course, where we were playing.
This experience has been a great stepping stone for me as I look toward my future golfing possibilities. Due to my back injury this past year, I was red-shirted at Duke and did not play at all between September 2007 and March 2008, so just to be healthy again and then make the U.S. Open field was beyond my expectations. I know playing in the Open will help me when the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst rolls around in August, as the USGA likes to set up courses in similar fashion and this one was as tough as any I’ve ever played.
After the round I had dinner with my parents, my caddie (Dave Gagnon), my uncle (Steven Murphy), and a family friend. It was great to have my support staff with me to experience the week. We re-arranged our flights and will be coming back home on Saturday, so I can watch the third and final rounds of the Open and finalize the events I plan to play in this summer.
Just one table over from us at dinner was Stuart Appleby, the current leader of the Open. As we got up to leave, I walked over to Stuart to wish him good luck. I dream that in a few years some young player might write on their blog that they walked over to me and said hello, and congratulate me on holding the lead at the U.S. Open.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you back home!
Friday, June 13: A Test of Nerves
What an experience. The morning of my first round at a major championship, I went through my normal routine: stretching, then hitting balls on the range. (The only thing outside my normal routine was that I did end up wearing metal spikes). I was shuttled out to the 10th tee and was greeted by my family, some friends from Ardsley High School and some friends from the Duke golf team. I was very anxious and very nervous… it was hard to feel my legs. At 9:02 a.m., I was called to the tee. I can’t remember ever feeling this nervous before but, hey, I have never teed it up in a major before either. After my pre-shot routine, I was now over my ball. Well, here it goes…..thankfully, I striped it down the middle.
The round was a grind both mentally and physically. I know that my drives and iron play were not in top form. But as I look back on the round I noticed that I hit 8 out of 14 fairways (Tiger and Phil both only hit 6 of 14) and I hit 7 out of 18 greens (Tiger hit 10 of 18 and Phil hit 11 of 18). Which means that I was not the only golfer who was grinding away out there. While I did not sink any decent-length putt, I missed about five putts by just inches, including a birdie putt on the par-three 11th hole (my second hole of the day) and a 70-foot put on hole #1 that left me with a tap-in par. Also, I did not three-putt a single hole!
I was +5 through 13 holes, but it was then that I started to hit a wall of both mental and physical fatigue… a wall that has never felt as hard to fight in all my years of competitive golf. There was just no let-up on any hole. I had what some might call an interesting situation on the 461-yard seventh hole. I hit my tee shot into the thick rough on the right, and two eucalyptus trees were in between me and the green. I decided to play it safe and hit my 60-degree wedge back into the fairway. As I’m making my swing, the rough grabs my clubhead and, rather than going left of the trees, my ball went straight into the tree. My caddie, Dave Gagnon looks at me and asks, “Where did it go?” I smiled and said, “It’s lodged in the tree, it never came out.” I have been playing golf since I was 6 years old and I can say that I have never hit a ball that lodged into a tree. Afterward, I wonder if the USGA or the folks at Torrey Pines would consider naming that tree after me J. When all was said and done I got on in 6 and two putted for my quadruple-bogey 8. Two holes later, I ended up taking a double bogey to complete my first round at a major.
As a competitive person, I certainly am unhappy with my score of 86 on Thursday, but I am choosing to focus on the positive aspects. I’m remembering what Boo Weekley and Soren Hanson said to me in the practice round: It was a great accomplishment that I was able to qualify from over 8,500 entrants for the 85 or so “open” spots in the U.S. Open. Despite my score, I just have to learn as much as I can from today’s second round and take this week’s experiences and apply them to my future endeavors. I know I can play better, and I had a great dinner with my family and friends yesterday evening, which helped a lot. I don’t tee it up on Friday until 2:31 PDT, so I plan to rest early in the day and then go about preparing to play the best that I can and score well in the second round.
Thursday, June 12: Now On The Tee…
I had my final practice round yesterday, and was lucky enough to be paired with Boo Weekley and Chris Devlin. Boo is really a fun guy to be with. Here’s an example: We were talking about what our opening tee shots will be like in the first round. I showed Boo my shot, as I hit a low stinger that hit the fairway and had some roll on it. Boo gets up on the tee and proceeds to cold-top the ball about 15 feet. The gallery was stunned into silence. Then Boo looks into the stands and says…”Who hasn’t done that?” The crowd ate it up. Boo is a very down-to-earth and likeable guy.
The course yardage book shows that Torrey Pines will play to 7,600 yards. But it has been feeling like much more than that due to the winds and something called the Marine Layer, which is a thick morning mist that covers the course and keeps the air heavy. Yesterday the Marine Layer finally lifted a bit and the course firmed up. I guess that’s good news and bad news: We’ll get more roll in the fairways, but the greens will be tougher to hold.
I got a special treat as I spent some time practicing next to Tiger Woods at the driving range. It sure didn’t look like his knee was giving him problems. After that I spent some time working with my caddie, Dave Gagnon, on last-minute course strategies. I am not going to try to drive the green on No. 14 if they use the front tees, which makes the hole only 277 yards. There’s just too much trouble around it to make it worth going for. I also plan to hit a lot of line-drive stingers off the tee.
Well I’m trying to stay relaxed and trying to soak up all the atmosphere. I just can’t wait for 9:01 a.m. to roll around and hear my name being announced on the 10th tee…..”From White Plains, New York…..Michael Quagliano. Wow! Wish me luck.
Wednesday, June 11: The Great Dane
I arrived for my 7:11 a.m. practice round tee time yesterday expecting to play with Retief Goosen and Ben Crane. Retief was there and greeted me on the tee, but Crane did not show up, and in his place was 34-year-old Soren Hanson, a European Tour player from Denmark. Actually, he’s 28th on the European Tour Order of Merit this year, and has two career wins. Soren and I hit it off very well, especially since Retief was all business. He was very focused on his practice round and actually decided to stop after eight holes.
Soren and I carried on and played a full round, and I learned so much. Soren told me that the most pros don’t beat themselves up too much during practice rounds or even keep score…they just use practice to get a lay of the land. “Be loose, be relaxed and don’t beat your body up too much,” he said, and I followed his advice. I didn’t hit too many balls out of the rough, and generally I just dropped balls down in various spots that would give me an idea of how the course will play during the championship. It’s less about shotmaking and more about course strategy.
The crowds were much larger today. When we reached the par-five 18th hole, the grandstand was nearly full, and Soren challenged me to two contests. The first was that we would try to hit the 573-yard hole in two shots (which I don’t plan to do during the championship). From 275 yards out, I hit what I thought was a great shot. It landed on the green beyond the flagstick…but then, U.S. Open conditions showed their teeth. My ball came to a stop, then began to roll back from behind the pin all the way down and into the water!
The crowd applauded when we tried those shots. But what made them laugh, roar and cheer was the next contest: skipping a ball across the pond in front of the green. Soren went first and hit a ball that skipped all the way across the water to the left of the green, rolled up the embankment and then back down and into the water. The crowd was having a good time. Now it was my turn. Soren gave me a couple tips on how to hit the shot, and I gave it a rip. The ball skipped four times and looked like it might make the green, but just before it reached the far end of the pond, it lost steam and disappeared. Overall I had a terrific morning with Soren, and I hope both he and I play well this week and maybe get paired together again.
I was asked today if I thought my game belonged with the world’s best players. When I look around and see all the pros and how impressive they are, I believe that what separates me from them is experience. It was amazing that I was able to even qualify for the United States Open. I believe that if I continue to work hard and keep playing in events that allow me to challenge myself, I will be going down the correct path that will help me gain the experience I need so that some day, my play will enable me to belong. And I’ll definitely want another shot at skipping that ball across the pond!
Tuesday, June 10: The Crowds are Getting Bigger
Yesterday was the first day that Torrey Pines really felt like a U.S. Open site. I went out and played the back nine this morning, and the crowds were much larger than they were over the weekend, which of course means I get to sign more autographs! I signed somewhere between 50 and 100 today, and I really enjoy signing for kids. Security was also tightened up – my parents have to go through metal detectors to get on the grounds, and were told they can’t bring a backpack or mobile phone out on the course.
I saw Tiger off in the distance during my practice round…I hear he played with Jordan Cox, a Stanford alum, as well as his usual practice partner, Bubba Watson. There was a huge crowd of people watching Tiger and Hank Haney practice on the putting green.
As for me, I played alone the first seven holes until we bumped into Rob Rashell, a pro from Washington state. He had a group with him that consisted of his coach and his caddie, who all were affiliated with University of Washington. My current coach at Duke, O.D. Vincent, has ties to those guys and to the University of Washington, so it was fun to play a couple holes with them.
After the nine holes I headed over to the range to work on some shots. The range is actually made up of a couple holes from the Torrey Pines North Course – I think the normal range is being used as a parking lot this week. I was practicing right next to Retief Goosen and Mike Weir and not too far away were Henrik Stenson and his caddie, Fanny Sunneson (who caddied for Nick Faldo during his major-winning years). I also spent some time with fellow Dukie, Kevin Streelman and his caddie, who also played on the team at Duke.
Major development of the day: I’m thinking about playing with metal spikes for the first time. The reason is that the grass is cut so perfectly and I want to have as much stability and traction as possible. I’m also learning that I definitely need to stay out of the greenside bunkers as much as possible. With all the new sand they put in, just about any ball that you hit into those bunkers ends up plugged.
Still no sign of Phil Mickelson…maybe he’s practicing at a secret location nearby, as he’s started to do in recent major championships. He lives about 20 minutes away so this is like a home game for him. And finally, I went back over to the registration area and looked at the practice round sheet to see which players signed up with me. I’m going to play with two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen and Ben Crane, who has won twice on Tour. It should be a blast on Tuesday!
Monday, June 9: Weekend Arrival and Practice
Hello from San Diego! My parents and I arrived on Saturday, June 7 after a long (and delayed) flight from JFK. On Saturday afternoon I decided to take it easy and just play nine holes at Torrey Pines. At about 3:30 PDT, with my dad on my bag, I walked out and hit my first tee shot (down the fairway, which was a nice relief). I ended up playing holes one through 8, then skipped over to finish up on the famed par-five 18th. I’m glad I did, since I birdied it to cap off a great first afternoon at Torrey. My first impression: The second-cut rough is as thick as any I’ve ever seen, and the course plays really long. It will play even longer if the wind comes up.
I woke up at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday and made my way over to the course by 9 a.m. to hit some balls on the range. Just like yesterday, the grounds were basically empty. Most of the pros are either still playing at the Stanford St. Jude or haven’t arrived yet, and no one asked me for any ID or USGA credentials. I am shocked at how easy it was to just walk on!
I’m trying to take it easy since this is a hard walking course and I know I have a long week ahead. This morning, I again play holes 1-8 and then 18 (parred it this time after just missing a 12-foot birdie putt). I mostly play one ball, but do take some practice shots every now and then. The fairways are very narrow, so it will be imperative to keep my shots in the fairways or at least the first cut. I am really just playing my normal game, which always focuses on accuracy. There was a group of people watching me putt out on the 18th hole and I could hear them trying to figure out who I was. One in the crowd said he saw my Duke-logoed golf bag…my mom was near them and told them I’ll be a senior next year. They asked me to sign a few autographs as I walked off 18.
Yesterday I saw Rocco Mediate at our hotel and Charles Howell III at the airport, and today 2007 Travelers Championship winner Hunter Mahan is playing in the group ahead of me, along with Michael Thompson. Thompson was the runner-up in last year’s U.S. Amateur and also played in this year’s Masters – something for me to aspire to! He’s turning pro in July.
It was now 11:40 a.m. and player registration was open. I received a registration packet full of everything that I needed to know for the week, two yardage books, and a bag tag and medal clip with my name on them. This was also where they have a sign-up sheet for practice rounds. If Tiger or Phil’s name were on the sheet and they had room, I could have signed into their group…not surprisingly, neither name was on the list! I did sign up to play a practice round with Rory Sabbatini, and I may also play with fellow Duke alums Joe Ogilvie and Kevin Streelman, both of whom texted and/or called me when I qualified last week.
As I was playing holes 9-17, I started seeing other players. I saw Tiger Woods playing a nearby hole. I also bumped into Dave Pelz and we had a short conversation. I mentioned that the rough was very high and he said I must absolutely stay out of the second cut, otherwise bogey or more is a very real possibility. So far I have played 27 practice holes and have scored no worse than a bogey, so I’m obviously listening to advice!
Sunday ended with a great dinner at a nearby sushi place, Sushi-ota, which my good friend from the Duke golf team, Jake Grodzinski, recommended. After we got back to the hotel, I ran into Sergio Garcia as he was checking in. I’m getting used to seeing the players we watch every week on TV, and am just trying to continue to prepare myself for the Open. I have spoken to my swing coach and original instructor, Jim O’Mara, many times over the past week and he has been very helpful. I’m also excited that GlenArbor teaching pro Dave Gagnon, who also helps me with my game, is due in Tuesday. Dave is going to be my coach and caddie during the championship. I’m looking forward to a great week and will be back with more reports from Torrey on Tuesday!