Erin, Wis. — The Loves felt the love from the gallery at the U.S. Open.
Davis Love IV made his professional debut at Erin Hills, shooting a 1-under 71 in his first round in a major tournament. His father, PGA Tour star Davis Love III, served as caddie.
The younger Love, who goes by “Dru,” called it an “awesome” experience.
“We got a lot of ‘Go 3 and 4s’ and ‘Go Davis,’ ” Dru Love said. “I think everybody’s rooting for us and wanting us to do well.”
The elder Love has 21 PGA Tour wins, including the PGA Championship at Winged Foot in 1997. Dru Love has said it was a “no-brainer” to have his father on the bag.
The experience helped, especially on the 526-yard, par-4 17th. Dru Love hit a shot wide left that landed in some matted-down rough.
“And I had 190 yards to the hole and it was a little downwind, and he told me to hit pitching wedge. I remember saying, ‘What?’ ” Dru Love recounted.
He hit 200 yards to the back of the green and saved par.
“If he hadn’t been there to tell me to hit pitching wedge, I would have soared it into the grandstands,” he said. “So he definitely saved me a few shots today.”
Kevin Na drew some attention this week after posting an Instagram video about the thick fescue at the U.S. Open.
“Erin Hills is a great design course but the fescue is almost unplayable,” Na wrote in a post that he later said was meant in part to be lighthearted.
He found the thick stuff just once, when he bogeyed the par-5 seventh. His drive just crept about a yard into the tall fescue.
“I want to thank the volunteers for spotting my ball and finding it,” Na said. He had a good round after teeing off in the afternoon, finishing at 4-under 68.
As for the Instagram post, Na said he had no regrets. Describing himself as someone who always spoke his mind, Na said some readers didn’t recognize that he praised the course overall.
He got a lot of support from fellow golfers.
“They got a kick out of it. A lot of players were saying, ‘Thank you, they mowed the fescue because of me. Hey, can you tell them the course is too long, they’ll move up the tees?’”
“The players get it,” Na added. “And I had a good time.”
Give Brandt a hand
Brandt Snedeker is pain-free again in his left hand at the U.S. Open.
He finished his opening round at Erin Hills at 2-under 70, with birdies at 16 and 18 following back-to-back double bogeys on 12 and 13.
Snedeker had a 3-over 75 at the Masters, well off the lead. The hand injury flared up that week at Augusta. He visited several specialists, who came to a conclusion that it was an ailment called “trigger finger.”
“It just creeps up on people that use their hands a lot. Happens to guitar players all the time, and people that use their hands,” said Snedeker, ranked 38th in the world. “For whatever reason mine just flared up on me. And kind of bad timing.”
Snedeker took some time off to help the hand heal. He had it in a cast for about four weeks.
“You don’t realize how much strength you lose in your hand,” Snedeker said. “The pain is gone.”
Wisconsin native Steve Stricker drew vocal crowds as he made his way around Erin Hills.
But a strong start, with birdies on the first two holes, quickly fizzled. He bogeyed the next two holes, and came just inches from hitting a birdie putt on 18 to finish at 1-over 73.
“All in all, it’s 1 over. It’s not great. I need a good one tomorrow to get back in there,” said Stricker, who lives in Madison.
A fan favorite at Erin Hills, Stricker is one of the most respected players on the tour. He was looking forward to playing in the first U.S. Open in his home state, and the fans were just as eager to watch him play.
“It was pretty cool. Every green that I walked up on, every tee,” Stricker said. “I got a lot of support out there today and it was a lot of fun.”
In Phil’s place
After Phil Mickelson withdrew early Thursday to attend his daughter’s high school graduation, alternate Roberto Diaz got the call to take his spot.
He finished at even-par 72 — not bad for someone who only learned he was going to play at 7 a.m. Diaz was in a threesome with Stewart Cink and Steve Stricker, a Wisconsin native who is a fan favorite at Erin Hills.
“I thought it was a very good round, although I was pretty nervous at the beginning,” Diaz said. “I held it together pretty good.”
With an afternoon tee time, Mickelson held out hope that a weather delay would give him enough time to fly from California to Wisconsin to get on the course. But Mickelson withdrew with no rain in the forecast.
Diaz said he was already up for about 45 minutes when he got the call that he was in the field. He then went back to sleep for about two hours before arriving at the course at midday.