ARDMORE, Pa. — Out of sight from the lead, Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley finished up his role in the 113th U.S. Open like he was on a speed boat on American Lake – in a swift 3 hours, 45 minutes.
And he got a splash, too, seeing history.
Shawn Stefani, his playing partner, aced the 17th hole, becoming the first golfer in five U.S. Opens at Merion Golf Club to record a hole-in-one.
Yet, before the clouds broke for the leaders Sunday, Stanley stood outside the scoring trailer after his round. And when he shed his sunglasses, his eyes indicated a worn-out man who had taken a few hard licks from a bully of championship course.
“Nothing out here,” Stanley said, “seems fast.”
Stanley closed his fourth U.S. Open experience with an 8-over-par 78. He left Merion East in last place (73rd) of these who made the cut, at 28-over 308.
He birdied the first three holes, and was in the hunt for a fourth in a row standing 80 yards from the green for his third shot at No. 4, a par 5 – a hole he birdied Saturday.
But his wedge approach shot was heavy, and the ball trickled into the front greenside creek. He took a penalty stroke, dropped another ball, hit it on the green – and made a triple bogey.
“It was a little chunky,” Stanley said. “I wanted to leave myself 100 yards and get something to spin, but we got down there too far (to 80). From a tight lie and downhill, I tried hitting a low spinner … and unfortunately didn’t do that.”
Stanley offered some perspective after completing his eighth professional major. What it will take to get in position to contend at one of these tournaments?
“I am 25. I am young. I have a lot to learn. In a way, this turned out to be a positive experience for me because all of my mistakes, or the majority of them, could have been avoided – bogeys with wedges, hitting fairways with 4-irons,” he said.
“Physically I need to get a little bit better. I just didn’t manage my game very well this week. I had a lot of really poor course-management errors. ‘Woos’ (caddie Dave Woosley) could have done a better job, I could have done a better job – just too many mistakes.”
One area Stanley is hoping to improve – and thought he had made gains in recent weeks – is his putting. On the advice of some of his Nike representatives, he has started working with Canadian instructor Ralph Bauer at the Oak Gables Learning Center in Toronto.
“I have worked with quite a few putting guys. Most of them, the first thing they look at is the (putting) stroke. And if I had a bad putting day, I would just try to work on technique. It wasn’t really helping,” Stanley said.
“(With Bauer), it is not mechanical at all; it is how I visualize putts. I am very visual, and have been a visual learner since I was in school. So the work is on how I read putts, and see where I want the ball to travel, seeing it go in the hole. We want to paint good pictures.”
The two got together at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in late April. Stanley said the plan is for Bauer to fly in for instruction every few weeks.
“I feel good, even this week,” Stanley said. “The last few months, I have played some of the best golf – of anybody.”
In his return to Merion Golf Club less than four years after playing for the U.S. team in the Walker Cup, Rickie Fowler tied for 10th after four rounds, and his Saturday round of 3-under 67 was best of the day.
“I thought it was great,” he said. “Being here for the Walker Cup in ’09 and getting a sneak peek at it that week … it played different with the rough and some of the fairway routings, and the fairways being a little narrower, but I thought it was a great test.
“I think it surprised a lot of people with some of the scores. It didn’t play easy out there.”
Merion yielded its lowest stroke average of the week in the final round, but the number — 74.055 — was more than 4 shots over par.
For the week, the East Course averaged 74.553 with more than twice as many bogeys (2,079) as birdies (977) and 451 scores of double bogey or worse.
The most difficult hole was the 500-plus-yard 18th with an average of 4.707, slightly ahead of No. 5 (4.706).The Philadelphia Inquirer contributed to this report