Early birdies, late delays — and a 76 — end Gonzales’ wild first round at US Open

Andres Gonzales watches his tee shot on the 16th hole Thursday during the first round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club. Gonzales opened with a 6-over-par 76.
Andres Gonzales watches his tee shot on the 16th hole Thursday during the first round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club. Gonzales opened with a 6-over-par 76. The Associated Press

Olympia’s Andres Gonzales was up at the break of dawn, ready to face the hardest test in golf — the 116th United States Open.

What he got to endure was one long, crazy day at Oakmont Country Club.

Interrupted by two long rain delays, Gonzales — in the first group off the 10th tee at 6:45 a.m. EDT — was one of only nine golfers to finish the first round Thursday.

In fact, he had just signed his scorecard for a 6-over-par 76, and answered a few questions from the press corps outside the scoring tent, when a horn went off in the distance.

“Another delay,” he said.

This one, at approximately 4 p.m. EDT, suspended play for the day.

“The whole year has been kind of like that — a lot of rain delays, and two Monday finishes,” Gonzales said. “Thing is, you’ve got to come out and not let it affect you.”

The Capital High School graduate birdied No. 11, his second hole, by canning a 10-foot putt. Three holes later, at the short par-4 14th, he rolled in an 18-footer.

And for 10 minutes around breakfast time, Gonzales had the lead at the U.S. Open by himself.

“Compared to my first U.S. Open, I wasn’t nearly as nervous,” Gonzales said. “So I got to come out and freewheel.”

He was at even par at the turn, then ran into trouble at the second hole.

Gonzales’ second shot plugged in the back greenside bunker. Trying to delicately escape to a close pin, his sand blast carried all the way to the front bunker, where it plugged again.

He ended up playing pinball between the two bunkers, because his fourth shot scurried into the back bunker — all leading to a triple bogey.

“It’s the U.S. Open, dude,” Gonzales said.

Then the rains came.

The first delay lasted a little more than an hour — short enough that the players were sent directly back to the holes they were on — with no chance to warm up.

Gonzales had just made a double bogey at No. 5, and was ready to stick a tee in the ground to play the next hole, a par 3, when the sirens sounded again.

The next delay was 2 1/2 hours long.

“There was lightning and thunder, so we had to come in,” Gonzales said. “It’s better than sitting out in vans.”

In the players’ hospitality area, Gonzales socialized with old buddy Ryan Moore, Moore’s older brother, Jeremy, and Moore’s former caddie, Kirk Brown, who went to UNLV with the two golfers.

It was there that Gonzales started receiving odd text messages from friends.

“Surprisingly, I had a bunch of people texting me during the rain delay, asking me, ‘Is it raining there?’ ” Gonzales said. “I said, ‘Look at your TV, it is raining here.’ 

As players were preparing to return to the course, confusion ensued.

Gonzales said the players were told to board vans just outside the locker room — but none were there.

Then he was told that vans were down by the driving range, some 500 yards away. Still no vehicles.

“I wasn’t real thrilled about how nobody knew what was going on,” Gonzales said. “By the time we got in golf carts, we were 10 minutes late.”

Gonzales stood on the No. 6 tee, antsy to get his round going. As soon as the horn sounded to restart play, he wasted no time in taking a big swing.

“I was ready to go,” he said. “We had been standing there for a while.”

Afterward, Gonzales was surprisingly upbeat after a 76. It was certainly better than the 79 he opened with in the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, where he missed the cut.

“I had fun today,” Gonzales said. “You can’t come out with any kind of bad attitude, or start sulking or feeling bad for yourself here. The minute you do that, it starts getting crazy.”