ARDMORE, Pa. — Back in 2005, he was still Kyle the Kid – a 17-year-old from Bellarmine Prep on the big stage of the U.S. Amateur.
And on the second day, Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley promptly shot an 83 at Merion Golf Club’s East Course to bow out of the tournament.
So what makes this week at the 113th U.S. Open so different?
“Either the course has gotten easier,” Stanley said, “or I’ve gotten better.”
“The course has gotten easier,” said a laughing Stanley.
Kidding aside, despite a few late shaky holes, Stanley – the last man to qualify for the tournament based on his world golf ranking (No. 60) – still made the cut Friday.
After finishing his opening round in the morning with a 1-over-par 71, he posted a 74 in the afternoon for a two-round total of 5-over 145.
It is the fourth time he’s made a cut at a professional major – and the first time at a U.S. Open since 2009 when it was held at Bethpage Black in New York.
“I feel good. My game is coming around. Obviously, I have been playing a lot better as of late,” Stanley said. “I am in a great spot right now, mentally and physically, off the golf course. There’s not as much pressure on me, and I am taking it easy on myself, even though I still work hard.”
Stanley returned early Friday and birdied the 11th and 13th holes to get to 2-under, one shot out of the lead held by Phil Mickelson. He then gave a shot back with a bogey at No. 15.
Then came the shot seen all over television – the “whiff.”
With his ball buried in waist-high fescue grass in front of the 16th green, Stanley took a quick swing to try and advance his golf ball. Nothing came out of it.
“It was kind of a tough shot,” Stanley said. “I slid under it.”
He ended up making double bogey, and finished with a 71.
He started his second round on the 11th hole and bogeyed it, then made 11 consecutive pars.
But late in the round, tee shots began spraying left and right. He bogeyed the fifth hole from the right rough. A hole later, he was in tall grass so thick that when he tried muscling out an iron approach, his golf ball shot left and barely stayed from going into a hazard.
His third shot landed about 15 feet away from the pin, but ran his putt by the hole, then missed the 5-footer for a double bogey.
At No. 8, the same thing happened, leading to a bogey. At 6-over, he was suddenly over the cut line at the time.
“The rough is probably the hardest I’ve ever seen,” Stanley said. “The gradual cut is like the first cut of rough in any normal (PGA) Tour event. Then it gets really deep, and it is a guessing game, really.”
But at the 10th hole, a short par 4, Stanley laid up to 75 yards, and hit a wedge approach close. He closed his round with a 6-footer for his only birdie.
“I was so tense on the greens in the afternoon there. It sped up a little bit,” Stanley said. “Some of those pins were in tough spots. It was a high-stress round.”
A professional round of 74 is no amateur score of 83.
“I have been on tour three years now, and (Merion East) is still hard,” Stanley said. “I played it when I was 17. I can see how maybe a 17-year-old could shoot 83.”