Everyone knows the big names in U.S. Open field. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson? They roll off our tongue with ease. But what makes our national Open truly special is that golfers like Brooks Koepka get an opportunity to test their mettle against the best players in the world.
Koepka, a three-time All-American at Florida State University, will be making his first major championship start this week at Olympic Club, after qualifying at the U.S. Open sectional in Florida. (Side note: he beat 14-year-old Andy Zhang in a playoff.)
He'll be writing all week for Devil Ball about his first U.S. Open experience. (You can also follow Brooks on Twitter at @BKoepka.)
SAN FRANCISCO, California — I knew the cross-country flight from Florida to California would be long, but for some reason Sunday felt like an eternity. Our plane had one of those screens that shows you how far along you are into your trip, and I noticed at one point that we were flying through Colorado.
Well for whatever reason, the last leg from Colorado to San Francisco felt like five hours. It was like time was standing still. But I guess that's what it feels like when you really want to get somewhere, and there's no question I wanted to get to Olympic Club.
I've been to San Francisco before, so being in the Bay Area isn't that big of a deal. It's probably a good thing because it'll allow me to stay low-key for the early part of the week and really concentrate on my game.
Since this is my first trip to Olympic Club, I wanted to get in early and spend as much time on the course as possible. After throwing my bag in the hotel room, I headed to the course to check in for the week and get in a quick practice session.
I have to say, it was pretty cool walking into the clubhouse at Olympic and seeing some the guys I'm usually watching on TV checking in as well. Zach Johnson was nice enough to stop and wish me good luck for the week, so that was a big highlight of my day.
Unlike a lot of the other guys who brought their wives and kids along, I'm flying solo this week, which made checking in a heck of a lot easier. I spent the rest of the day working on my game for about 90 minutes and then headed out to see some good friends and pick up my caddie, Rich Dobbing.
I've known Rich for about four years now and was introduced to him through a buddy of mine who used to play for the Australian national team. Our paths kind of crossed at a couple amateur events and we clicked and started working together.
He's a great guy and knows how to keep me calm. If you want to know how important he is, when I qualified out of sectionals, he was actually the third phone call I made after talking to my parents.
He's never seen Olympic before, so this is new experience for both of us. We ended up getting in an 18 hole practice round on Monday with a Hunter Hamrick, who's a good friend of mine, and Michael Thompson.
I can't tell you how good it felt to hit that first tee shot. After all the hard work I've put in, it was one of those things I was really looking forward to. We had a blast out there trying to gain as much knowledge about about the course as possible.
A couple things I noticed that shouldn't come as a surprise: the rough is thick, and it's only going going to get thicker as the week progresses. And the greens are the best I've ever played on. No doubt they're quick, but that's part of playing in a U.S. Open; you expect the putting surfaces to be challenging.
The most memorable moment of the practice round came on the 18th hole. For whatever reason I had the a yardage that was way off, and with the grandstands behind the green blocking the wind, I was playing for a wind that wasn't there.
Well, I ended up hitting a little 9-iron and it almost hit the steps leading up to the grandstand. In my defense, the grandstand it literally right behind the green, but I'll admit that I almost killed a couple people with that shot. I definitely had a good laugh about it ... after I missed and I realized everyone was OK.
Needless to say, it was a memorable way to start the week. I'm going to play nine holes on Tuesday afternoon with Peter Hanson and then hang out with my mom, who's flying in for the week. With one day in the books, I'm really looking forward to getting after it tomorrow.