Daily Digest: Monday
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
Open No. 6 for Hicks
After Justin Hicks, 41, qualified for his sixth U.S. Open out of the Summit, N.J., sectional last week, he reminisced about playing a practice round with a couple of luminaries in his first U.S. Open in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills.
“I joined up with Davis Love III and Freddy Couples,” said Hicks. “We were playing the seventh hole, probably one of the toughest par 3s in the world, and I hit what I thought was a good shot, but it bounced and went over the back of the green. Davis got up, and he did the same thing. He looked at me and said, ‘What are you gonna do.’ And I was like, yeah, Davis, what are you gonna do.”
“So Freddy gets up and hits this towering slice,” said Hicks. “It landed and stopped right in its tracks. I watched that and said to myself, I do not have that shot. I’ve got a pretty good learning curve ahead.”
Hicks went on to miss the cut. He co-led the 2008 U.S. Open after one round at Torrey Pines before fading to a tie for 74th place. His best finish is a tie for 60th in 2011.
Aron Price, of Australia, and Richie Schembechler, of Massillon, Ohio, each have caddies this week with ties to USGA championships at Oakmont. Nick Flanagan, who defeated Casey Wittenberg to win the 2003 U.S. Amateur at Oakmont, is Price’s caddie. Mike Emery, who tied for 47th in the 1994 U.S. Open, is caddieing for Schembechler.
The 2003 U.S. Amateur capped a three-month visit to the United States for Flanagan, who was 19 when he defeated Wittenberg in 37 holes. Flanagan’s was something of a Cinderella story, as he birdied his final hole to get into a playoff for the match-play field, then reeled off six hard-fought victories to become the first non-American U.S. Amateur champion since 1971, and the first Australian-born winner since Walter Travis in 1903.
Ten players this week competed in that 2003 U.S. Amateur won by Flanagan at Oakmont. Of the 10, Bill Haas advanced the farthest, reaching the quarterfinal round before losing to David Oh. Billy Hurley III defeated Spencer Levin, both of whom are playing this week, in the first round of match play before being eliminated. Others who lost in the first round of match play were William McGirt, Ryan Moore, J.B. Holmes and Brandt Snedeker. Chris Kirk, Derek Fathauer and Jason Kokrak all failed to qualify for match play.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.