John McGrath

John McGrath: Now that US Open practice rounds are over, there’s one question: Who are these golfers?

The practice rounds at Chambers Bay are over, as well as the history and agronomy lessons. I think I know more about the links-style golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. than Robert Trent Jones Jr. does.

When 156 golfers tee off Thursday, I’ll be left with only one question about the U.S. Open.

Who are these guys?

I don’t mean Tiger and Phil and Rory, the usual suspects gallery fans refer to on a first-name basis. I mean Jake Knapp, Matt Mabrey and Cody Gribble, who will compete in the Open along with Nick Hardy, Oliver Farr and Tyler Duncan.

Who are they?

Glancing at a U.S. Open pairings sheet reminds me of Selection Sunday before the NCAA Tournament. For every Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, there is a Fairfield, Oakland and Mount Saint Mary’s. It’s a balance that is essential to the tournament’s charm.

Of course, everybody realizes Fairfield, Oakland and Mount Saint Mary’s have no chance of substantial advancement. But there is a very good chance Brandon Hagy, Wen-Chong Liang or Francesco Molinari could make the cut at Chambers Bay. Perhaps their names will even occupy the leader board, if only briefly.

The USGA on Tuesday distributed a pronunciation guide for the Open’s 156 players, arranged in alphabetical order. South Africa’s Thomas Aiken is the first name on the list; the Republic of Korea’s Gunn Yang is the last name. Having never heard of either, I wondered how many players at Chambers Bay find me asking: Who is this person?

I counted 100, essentially two thirds of the field. I suppose such ignorance should humble a sports writer who has had seven years to prepare for the U.S. Open. But how can I be blamed for not compiling information on Kevin Lucas, a 26-year old Nevada-Reno product who has played one event on the PGA Tour?

(Upon compiling information, I’ve learned that Lucas’ hobbies include dirt biking, mountain biking and wakeboarding, that his brother Joe was a pro MMA fighter, and that another brother, Justin, is the No. 1 ranked bass fisherman in the world. It will be cool if Kevin Lucas spends the weekend leader boarding.)

I may not be familiar with two of every three players at Chambers Bay, but as long as I consult the sheet, I’ll have the ability, more or less, to pronounce their names.

South Africa’s George Coetzee, for instance, is pronounced “George Could-see,” which might be used this way in a sentence: George could see until a gallery following Phil, Tiger or Rory showed up.

Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee is pronounced “thong-CHAI jay-DEE. Jaidee, 45, grew up wanting to play soccer, but was injured when a wooden skewer became embedded in his foot. During his recuperation – this is according to the U.S. Open players guide –“he sneaked onto the Army Golf Club behind his home in Lop Buri, tied the discarded head of a 5-iron to a bamboo stick and started playing golf.”

(Whew, glad it was a 5-iron on the bamboo stick. That reference to the discarded head had me worried.)

European Tour veteran Bernd Wiesberger is pronounced “Burnd Vees-Berger,” which makes me suspect the Austrian has the same trouble cooking on charcoal grills as I do.

Joost Luiten, from the Netherlands, is pronounced “UUST LAU-tun.” Shiv Kapur, a former Purdue All-America golfer from New Dehli, is pronounced “Shiv Ka-poor.” And Rich Berberian Jr., from Derry, New Hampshire, is pronounced “Rich “Barbarian,” a classic oxymoron.

Of all the players I’m learning about, Cameron Tringale best exemplifies the code of self-discipline unique to golf. Last year Tringale, a 27-year old Georgia Tech product, finished in a tie for 33rd in the PGA Championship. A few days later, it occurred to him that he violated rule 34.1b (III), which disqualifies any competitor who fails to record a stroke.

Except Tringale didn’t actually take a stroke before a tap-in putt. His putter passed over the ball – same thing. Tringale notified the PGA about the incident, and the $53,000 he’d earned for a 33rd-place tie was forfeited.

Who are these guys?

They’re elite golfers who’ve got games and names, some of which are more difficult to pronounce than others.