The U.S. Open is the most democratic of all the major championships, and because nearly half the spots in the field are filled by golfers who have to qualify, there are always players in the field with tremendous stories. From amateurs to lifelong journeymen playing in the first career major championship, this field always intrigues.
And this year’s event — the 119th edition of this tournament — is no different. Here are a few of the non-big name storylines to keep an eye on as the U.S. Open starts at scenic Pebble Beach later on this week.
Viktor Hovland: The reigning U.S. Amateur champion played the first two rounds of this year’s Masters with 2018 winner Patrick Reed. He went on to nab low amateur honors at the Masters by finishing T32 and will turn pro next week (alongside teammate and superstar, Matthew Wolff) at the Travelers Championship.
Matt Parziale: Remember him? The firefighter from Massachusetts played in the 2018 Masters and finished tied for low amateur at last year’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
Luis Gagne: Speaking of low amateur honors at Shinnecock, this is the golfer Parziale shared them with. The LSU golfer shot 134 at a difficult track at Streamsong and could again go at it with Parziale for the top amateur honor.
Stewart Hagestad: Big Stew made a hole in one in his qualifier to get in this tournament for the third consecutive season. He missed the cut in the previous two, but he did notch low amateur honors at the 2017 Masters.
Brandon Wu: The Stanford man just won the national championship for the Cardinal and went out five days later to qualify for his first U.S. Open at maybe the toughest sectional qualifier in Ohio. “It’s a surreal feeling,” Wu told the AP. “It’s starting to sink in. Graduation is on Sunday of the U.S. Open. The idea is to make the cut and then maybe wear my cap and gown down the 18th fairway.”
Zac Blair: Golf Twitter’s favorite golf architect shot 6-under 134 in Ohio to qualify. It’s hard not to be rooting for somebody who loves golf this much to play well at his national open.
Andreas Halvorsen: The Norwegian shot 69-65 on almost no sleep after struggling to make it to sectional qualifying last week. Here’s the tale from Geoff Shackelford.
The most incredible story out of Newport Beach may belong to Andreas Halvorsen, a 22-year-old former Norwegian national team member with PGA Tour LatinoAmerica status. Halvorsen entered the SCGA-hosted qualifier thinking it was just up the freeway from Tijuana Country Club, where the tour visited two weeks ago. Unfortunately, another stop in Cancun for the Bupa Match Play followed, forcing the Florida resident to take a late flight. He arrived at 1 a.m. with an 8:10 a.m. tee time at Big Canyon.
Collin Morikawa: He pulled a Brandon Wu, or Brandon Wu pulled a Collin Morikawa. Either way, they both qualified out of the Columbus, Ohio sectional with loads of pros in the field. Morikawa is coming off a T14 at the Canadian Open last week (albeit 14 strokes back of winner Rory McIlroy). He’s considered one of the handful of best future pros not named “Matthew Wolff” in this group that’s about to erase the (a) next to their names. Won five times while at Cal.