More seasoned Gonzales ready to make noise in second US Open

Andres Gonzales says his seasoning will help him at his second U.S. Open: “I can go out and prepare more to contend in a major.”
Andres Gonzales says his seasoning will help him at his second U.S. Open: “I can go out and prepare more to contend in a major.” The Associated Press

Andres Gonzales loves everything about being in the Pittsburgh area this week except his golf bag.

Like all the Callaway-sponsored bags for golfers in the 116th U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, Gonzales’ bag is black and gold. Those are Steelers’ colors. Gonzales is a devout Seattle Seahawks fan.

“I don’t like it,” he said with a smirk. “But I do what (Callaway) says. It is cool for only one week, I guess.”

And if Gonzales has to personally tote his golf bag through Sunday in his second U.S. Open start, he still would be ecstatic.

Gonzales missed the cut in his previous U.S. Open appearance in 2011 at Congressional Country Club, which is in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.

“I feel way more comfortable than the first time. I was pretty nervous in the first one,” said Gonzales, who grew up in Olympia and played at Capital High School. He lives in Lakewood.

“I have played in big tournaments since then, and feel like I can go out and prepare more to contend in a major as opposed to last time, when I was just here enjoying it.”

The 33-year-old has gone through plenty in his career since that trip to Congressional.

After 2011, he went to the Tour, where he earned his first significant victory at the Soboda Golf Classic.

Back on the PGA Tour in 2013, he struggled once more — and found himself playing on the Tour again.

He won again — at the 2014 Utah Championship.

In 2015, he enjoyed his best season on the PGA Tour, making 17 of 28 cuts and earning a career-best $925,335 to keep full-time playing privileges.

But after some early-season struggles this season, Gonzales made a change. He split with Austin, Texas-based swing instructor Ann Marie Gildersleeve and has been working with Chris Griffin, the assistant professional at Tacoma Country & Golf Club.

“We hit a stalemate, so I decided to move on,” Gonzales said. “I am now working with Griff, even though it hasn’t been for a long time — maybe five hours together. But I am excited.”

After Gonzales was co-medalist at U.S. Open sectional qualifying in Memphis, Tennessee, last week, then missed the cut at the FedEx St. Jude Classic on Friday, he immediately headed to Oakmont.

He walked the front nine Saturday with only a wedge and putter, just to get a feel for the demanding greens.

“Our greens at Tacoma (C&GC) run as good as any greens I’ve putted, including these,” Gonzales said. “These have much more undulation. You have to use much more creativity out here.”

Gonzales played a full practice round Monday, then nine holes apiece on Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for his 6:45 a.m. EDT tee time Thursday.

“It is very fair. Everything is right in front of you. There are a couple of holes you have to hit into elevated greens, but other than that, you know where it is going,” Gonzales said.

“There are no gimme-a-break holes out here … but I feel pretty good here. The fairways are generous. But when you get off of them, you are in trouble.”