It’s hard to believe, but this week is Jamie Lovemark’s first U.S. Open and first major.
At one point nearly a decade ago, the 27-year-old from Rancho Santa Fe, California, was arguably the most talented player in college golf. At the very least, he was easily the longest hitter while at USC — which makes Chambers Bay made for his skills set.
Lovemark shot a 2-under-par 68 on Friday in the second round to move inside the top 20, highlighted by a holeout from a greenside bunker for birdie.
“On paper, it suits me well,” Lovemark said of the course. “You never know until you get here. Like everyone said, it is a huge benefit carrying (shots) 290, 300 yards.
“I’m hitting it high, hitting it pretty far and decently straight, so it’s a good fit.”
Expectations were sky high for Lovemark after he won the NCAA Division I men’s title as a freshman in 2007, becoming the first Trojans golfer to do so in 26 years. He shot a 6-under-par 64 in the third and fourth rounds to rally past such names as Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley and Dustin Johnson to win.
Lovemark ended up becoming a two-time All-American and part of winning U.S. squads at the 2007 Walker and Palmer cups with current PGA Tour stars Billy Horschel, Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson, Chris Kirk and Johnson.
In 2009, in just his fourth professional start, Lovemark lost in a sudden-death playoff with Fowler and Troy Matteson at the PGA Tour’s Frys.com Open.
Stardom was stamped all over him.
Then came a serious back injury in 2011. After surgery, he was off for eight months and struggled to regain his form.
Although twice a winner on the Web.com Tour, he has had two failed stints on the PGA Tour — in 2011-12 and last season.
Now back on the Web.com Tour, he has made nine cuts in 12 events. And two weeks ago, he qualified for the U.S. Open for the first time through sectional qualifying in New York.
“It is a U.S. Open, but it doesn’t feel like a U.S. Open,” Lovemark said. “It’s a little more quiet than it usually is for some reason.
“I feel ready.”
CHAMBERS BAY OR GOLD MOUNTAIN
At the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur, then-teenager Beau Hossler — the stroke-play medalist that week — loved the Gold Mountain Olympic Course so much, he said he’d like it to host a U.S. Open.
Now at Texas, Hossler is playing in his third U.S. Open this week at Chambers Bay — about 30 miles south of Gold Mountain.
“I don’t remember the comment, but I remember the course, though,” Hossler said. “It is an awesome track. It is really good. … I’ve never talked to anybody who didn’t like it.
“Kind of like this course, it can get pretty creative around the greens, it seems like.”
Jason Palmer does things a little bit differently around the greens. He uses one hand for chip shots.
And the European Tour rookie had a spectacular up and down at No. 14 on Friday for par.
“Nobody’s really seemed to comment on it,” Palmer said. “I guess everyone was in shock by it.”
J.B. Holmes’ score was like the Chambers Bay terrain Friday morning: up and down.
But when he left the course he’d posted a 4-under-par 66, tied with Louis Oosthuizen for the best round of the morning. He’s 2 under for the tournament.
The 33-year-old Kentuckian had six birdies and an eagle but he tempered his success with four bogeys.
On the back nine, he followed two birdies with bogeys.
“Good round for me,” Holmes said. “I left a few out there. I had a few too many bogeys, but I gave myself a lot of opportunities and I felt like I putted well. I missed a couple short ones, but they’re getting a little crusty out there. Overall it was a good day for me.”
He likes where he sits heading into the final rounds. “Hopefully, I can go out and play well tomorrow and have a chance on Sunday.”
DO NOT GO IN THERE
Daniel Summerhays usually travels with his young family, and the U.S. Open is no exception.
“They’re a very important part of my life,” he said.
They rented a house near Chambers Bay, and he says he’s trying to keep his kids from causing any damage.
“So far, so good,” he said. “We haven’t damaged anything yet. Clogged a toilet, but that’s fine. That can be fixed.”
Staff writer Craig Hill contributed to this report