SAN FRANCISCO – Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley is beginning to trust his golf game again.
A 3-over-par 73 to begin the 112th U.S. Open today might not offer the fullest proof of that process. But glance at some of the other scores posted – Phil Mickelson’s 76 and Masters champion Bubba Watson’s 78 highlight a few of the first-day disasters – and what Stanley accomplished seems pretty solid.
His 73 was his best opening round score in a U.S. Open since he shot 70 in 2009 at Bethpage Black.
The proof is more in his demeanor. He is that calm, serious, steely-eyed competitor again – and that is important.
“It is the first time in a couple months where I’ve felt relaxed … and at ease,” Stanley said.
He began on the toughest stretch – Nos. 1 through 6 – right out of the gate. He made an all-world, up-and-down from the right greenside rough for par, and got out of that gauntlet of holes at 2-over.
“I’ll accept that,” Stanley said.
He hit a 9-iron approach at the 13th hole close, and rolled in a 4-foot putt for birdie to get to 1-over.
Stanley’s only real rough stretch started a hole later. His approach shot at No. 14 spun to the front fringe. He decided to putt it, and ran a 40-footer by the hole – then missed the par-saver from 8 feet coming back.
And on the next hole, a short par 3, his tee shot came up way short. He tried a flop shot to get his golf ball over a collar of rough, and it flew to the back of the green, 40 feet away. His par attempt slid off-line at the hole for another bogey to fall to 3-over.
Stanley got a shot back at the reachable par-5 17th when his iron approach stayed just short of the green, and he chipped it to within 3 feet.
He admitted he was a little off with his short irons, and that bit him again on a final-hole bogey.
This is a push of the reset button for Stanley – starting with a new caddie this week in Dave Woosley, who is a veteran, even presence on the bag.
“Just a different personality – very calm, very chill,” Stanley said. “You can’t build a relationship in a week, but you can start one.
“Golf wasn’t fun. I wasn’t happy. I was miserable coming off the course in the past few months. But I was talking to Julie (Elion, a Washington D.C.-based mental coach) during practice rounds, telling her I kind of felt like the old Kyle a little bit, which is nice.”