rickie fowler story 1

The Summer of 62s

A day of record scoring was but one reason the first day of the U.S. Open was special

By Michael Bamberger

LOS ANGELES–Admit it: You liked Rickie’s 62 more than Xander’s. That’s not a knock on Xander. It’s more a statement that we know that Rickie needs it more.

You know, Rickie got that stylish swing. He got that SoCal ease. He didn’t go LIV. That’s a positive. Right?

Now, you could say all those things about Xander Schauffele, too. Except Schauffele has played in every major since the 2017 U.S. Open. In the last four years, Rickie Fowler has made the cut in three major championships. He is playing in his first Open since 2020, the same year he last teed it up at Augusta. 


“Rick’s awesome,” Schauffele said on Thursday. They log some casual golf in South Florida, now and again.

Rick. Love that. Jack Nicklaus used to call Johnny Miller John. Jack Kennedy used to call his brother Bobby Bob. The USGA blue coats call Bobby Jones Bob. John got the Bob Jones Award from the USGA the other night, Fred Perpall presiding. Fred pantomimed his free-throw form for Alan Shipnuck and me on Thursday afternoon, when Shipnuck and I were on our way to see his great-aunt Harriet. Aunt Harriet’s got game. Pink hair, wee tennis shoes, a driver’s license, plus some other moves. She wasn’t on hand for the last U.S. Open in L.A., and she didn’t watch it on TV. Hogan, Riviera, ’48. Lady Harriet is 91. John’s first U.S. Open was Hogan’s last, in ’66. That’s when Billy Casper said to Palmer, “Go ahead, Arnold, you’re hot.” Arnold wasn’t hot. He was ice cold. That was at Olympic, in San Francisco. My friend Jaime Diaz was there. Jaime’s amazing.

A bunch of us—including Jaime, Shipnuck and of course Johnny Miller—have covered all manner of U.S. Opens on the West Coast: Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach and Olympic and Chambers Bay, outside Seattle. But who among us has covered a U.S. Open in Los Angeles?

Nobody. It’s different.

The ticket prices are absurdly high, close to $300 for a one-day grounds pass. (The winner will take home $3.6 million. Yes, you have made a contribution.) There are no fans out here. I mean, little pockets here and there, but there is one security official for every 12 fans, or so it seems. You will see body types here, designed in air-conditioned gyms and on surgical tables, you will not see at any other tournament, not even the Genesis Invitational at Riviera. The day’s best moment came when Matthieu Pavon became the first French golfer to make an ace in the U.S. Open. It was on 15, where Sam Burns, of Choudrant, La., made one himself later. M. Pavon’s 1 unfolded over 10 seconds or so and when she rolled in the cup, his hands went up, his upper-arm tats were revealed and by sunset he and Mr. Burns were treating the press-tent denizens to Coronas. Too bad Steve DiMeglio of USA Today is not here. He has a keen interest in golf, golfers and beer.

usopen tickets

Too bad Tiger’s not here. U.S. Opens were enriched by his smoldering intensity. A U.S. Open is supposed to be intense. Raymond Floyd, crying in victory. Sandy Tatum, who pushed LACC on the USGA, where he was a lion: “We’re not trying to embarrass the best golfers in the world, we’re trying to identify them.” This U.S. Open, No. 123 if you’re keeping count, doesn’t feel intense yet. The leaderboard is a sea of red numbers. Like, 69 has never sounded so ho-hum. But the names, well, it’s all you could want. Rick and Xander, plus Dustin Johnson (64) and Rory McIlroy (65) and Scottie Scheffler (67s). The course is a par-70 playing more like 68, without a real par-5. (RIP, real par-5s.) The forecast is user-friendly. Ten under might not be enough to win this thing. McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional with 268, or 16 under par. Somebody could match it. Absolutely. These guys are good at golf.

That’s the main word here: golf. They’re playing golf. We’re watching golf. The golf ball does some nutty things on these pitched fairways. Threesomes off two tees. A packed driving range. A packed practice green. Players whose name you know and maybe don’t. Jacob Solomon shot 68, is 26, attended Auburn and has a beard. Bearded golfers were once an anomaly in professional golf, but that was then and this is now.

Now is a break from all the blah-blah-blah. The Saudis are trying to buy their way into this taciturn game. Jay Monahan’s health has suffered for it. The professional game has never had more money in it and ticket prices have never been higher. There are no easy answers but for now the questions are joyful ones.

“Did you actually see it go in or did you just react to the crowd?” Pavon was asked.

“No, I reacted to the crowd,” he said, in English. “The hole is just behind the slope so we can’t really see it. I just saw the bounce forward and kind of like seeing it was zipping left-to-right. So I knew it was close. But I just, I just heard the crowd getting more and more loud and then I knew it was in.”

It was in. It was in! We are in. We are in!

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at [email protected]

1 thought on “The Summer of 62s”

  1. You nailed it, Michael. I was thrilled by Fowler’s 62 and hope he wins this thing, because I’d like for him to get a major after all these years of trying.

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