BETHESDA, Md. – If Olympia’s Andres Gonzales was still toiling on the Canadian Tour, he might have a different feeling about the hours leading up to his first U.S. Open tee time today.
But advancing through three stages of PGA Tour Qualifying School – bypassing the Nationwide Tour altogether – and spending the past five months on the PGA Tour has not only changed his outlook, but it also has helped prepare him for one of the sternest tests in the sport.
The one starting today at Congressional Country Club certainly qualifies, but the Capital High graduate seems more upbeat than unnerved.
“If I was on the Canadian Tour like last year and had qualified for the U.S. Open, I think I’d be a little more intimidated,” Gonzales said Wednesday after he finished his final practice round.
“But being on the PGA Tour I am kind of used to this, and I am starting to become a little more acclimated and comfortable out here.”
And he is certainly not bashful about asking for tips, or hanging out with some of the best golfers in the world, as he did Wednesday.
Gonzales was off the first tee early, joined by England’s Luke Donald, the world’s No. 1-ranked player whom he met at the 2009 Canadian Open, where they played the final two rounds together.
Mostly, the two golfers went about their own business hitting multiple shots into greens and striking putts from various spots on the greens.
But if they were near each other, waiting or walking, Gonzales usually served up a witty quip, cracking up Donald.
“I tried to make him laugh,” Gonzales said. “He was telling me he was only going to play nine (holes), but then told me he enjoyed my company, so he wanted to keep going. He played 15 holes.”
Andres the Entertainer?
“I’d like to be 60 years old when I think about that as a next career,” he said.
Gonzales later joined Germany’s Martin Kaymer, the reigning PGA Championship winner, and American Bill Haas to finish up the round.
Afterward, as the golfers and caddies made their way along the long bridge from the 18th green to the practice green, Gonzales was constantly the target of friendly hoots and hollers. After all, he has become one of the PGA Tour’s funny Twitter kings, often holding one-way conversations with Tiger Woods.
And on Wednesday, a story about that topic came out on ESPN.com by renowned sportswriter Rick Reilly.
One of Gonzales’ Twitter teases to Tiger from Reilly’s column:
“ ‘@TigerWoods as you probably know, my birthday was this week. I believe you owe me a night around a camp fire with songs and smores. Ttfn [ta ta for now],’ Gonzales tweeted on May 19, even though Woods wouldn’t know Gonzales from your podiatrist.”
Today, the in-round jokes will be at a minimum. It is work time. And Gonzales has put in three long days of practice to get ready.
“The key is going to be the same for everybody – hitting fairways is going to be a premium out here,” Gonzales said. “With the rough, it’s going to be tough to control your ball but the USGA really puts a high value on par, so if you get it up near the right level of the green, you can get up and down.
“We’ll see. I think you’ll see some good scores early, and then we’ll see how the course firms up.”
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/golf