PINEHURST — They resembled a thundering herd of polo-wearing bison, kicking up clouds of sand and hurrying to get prime viewing locations between the 17th tee and 18th fairway on Pinehurst No. 2 Tuesday.
They were there to see the stars, and no foursome during Day 2 of the U.S. Open practice rounds was more marquee than the group of Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. For those who won’t have a chance to watch when the shots count, their round and their following represented their best taste of U.S. Open golf and the crowds and excitement that come with it.
“I think I got a few good shots of him,” said Allen Sansbury of North Myrtle Beach, S.C., looking at the view screen of his camera after Mickelson’s fairway shot on 18. “That’s the group we wanted to see. We got as close as we could get.”
Mickelson and Fowler are known brands to even the most casual golf fan, but there was buzz surrounding Spieth as well. The 20-year-old Texas native – dubbed “the future of golf” by one CBS Sports writer this week – is thought to have a good shot at becoming the first to win a U.S. Open before turning 21 since 1922.
Following the foursome was no easy feat. Those who couldn’t find shade along the way were forced to stand in the heat with temperatures topping 90 degrees by mid afternoon. Pinehurst’s sand only seemed to magnify that heat in spots.
That’s why David Burkhardt of Raleigh and his son Hodge let the action come to them on the 18th. David was there to see Mickelson, while his son was more excited to see the younger (and “cooler”) Fowler.
“We’ll be back on Friday,” the elder Burkhardt said, “but we had to come down and see this. This is most like what the actual Open will look and feel like when we’re here Friday.
“Only the crowds will be even worse,” he added, grinning.