Because they occupied the same opening tee time — and honor of being the first two golfers to tee off at the 115th United States Open Championship — Michael Putnam and Troy Kelly arrived at the practice range Thursday morning at roughly the same time.
At 6 a.m., when it was too brisk to talk for long.
But they did — briefly — chat in front of big crowds while mere feet from each other in different tee areas.
Off No. 1, Putnam, from University Place, missed the fairway and made an opening bogey, but he birdied No. 18 and posted an even-par 70.
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In the very first round played off Chambers Bay’s back tees in 2007, Putnam also shot 70.
“Today’s 70 was a lot better, considering the circumstances and how the course is playing,” Putnam said. “(I’m) really pleased. I played really well today.”
Kelly, the Central Kitsap High School graduate who now lives in Tacoma, hit the fairway at the 10th hole to start with par, and his 72 was good — just not as good as Putnam’s score.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking. It is tough to play in front of your home crowd. You don’t want to let anybody down. You want to play well, and show your talents out there a little bit,” Kelly said. “Once I … kind of settled in, then I got comfortable. It was just golf again.
“Obviously, we are on a big stage here.”
As he waited for his first-tee introduction, Putnam took three swings. Once his name was called, he waved twice to a large gathering.
“I couldn’t believe how many people were here at 7 a.m. to watch both of us go off the first shot of the first tee,” Putnam said. “That means they’re getting to shuttles at 6 and 5 (a.m.). It’s cool to see that support.”
Ryan Kelly, Troy’s brother and caddie, took time to look over at Putnam at the first tee, then watched Troy pipe a drive into ideal position.
“It was really cool. To be honest, I almost had a tear come to my eye,” Ryan said. “I’m just glad we got it into the fairway.”
Putnam started slowly but made a crucial 10-foot right-to-left putt for par at the sixth hole that kept him at 1 over.
Putnam birdied No. 12, then ended with a two-putt birdie at the finishing hole.
“There were certain times the familiarity (with) the pin placements that I’ve seen time and time again, I kind of knew where to stay away and kind of play safe around this place,” Putnam said.
Kelly made the turn at 1 under but got tangled in the tall, thick fescue rough on the right side at the second hole, leading to double bogey.
“I hung in there tough,” Kelly said.