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14-Year-Old Breaks 80 at U.S. Open
One of the main stories of the 2012 U.S. Open, Andy Zhang, managed to shoot a 9-over 79 in the opening round at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. At 14, Zhang is the youngest-ever contestant in 112 Opens and the first player from China.
The teenager, who now lives in San Diego, got off to a rough start with a triple-bogey on the opening hole. Things didn't get much better from there, as he went double-bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey on what many consider the toughest stretch at Olympic's Lake Course. After a par on the sixth, he birdied the par-4 seventh before another bogey and a par to make the turn in 8-over 42.
Zhang settled down on the back, however, carding six straight pars before another double on the par-5 16th. But a birdie on the last gave him a number under the dreaded 80.
After his round, the youngster met with reporters and discussed his day. Here's what Zhang had to say.
Q. How was it out there?
ANDY ZHANG: It was really tough. I didn't hit the ball quite well, but my putting was okay. So, but the course is really tough. So I'm actually okay with what I shot today. 7 over par, 79. At least I broke 80.
Q. You said a couple days ago that you really, this is about a learning experience. And in that respect was it a successful day?
ANDY ZHANG: It is still. Everybody in my group was shooting better than me. I liked the way they hit out of the rough, the strategy when they hit it in the rough, like when they lay up and on a few chip shots, it's a lot of things that I learned.
Q. When did you feel like you were settling down and getting it together?
ANDY ZHANG: After the first five holes. I shot 8 over in the first five holes, and then I made that par and then kind of got like a start, knew how to play golf a little bit after that. And I'm pretty happy with the 2 over in the back 13 holes.
Q. Were your hands shaking, knees knocking?
ANDY ZHANG: I was, yes. I was on the first tee, I was like, just please don't hit a hundred-yard slice off the first tee and I was shaking really hard. But I hit a great shot.
Q. What was it like after the first hole, because that was a pretty rough experience.
ANDY ZHANG: It is. I didn't think very much. I got my buddy Chris right there telling me to calm down. And then to triple the first hole, I mean it's the U.S. Open, you can't expect too much.
Q. What happened on your second shot on 1?
ANDY ZHANG: I was in the rough, the lie wasn't so good and I got about 200 something yards in, I was using a 6 iron. The lie wasn't so good, I should have used a pitching wedge to pitch it out. But I was using my 6 iron and the rough just kind of drug my hand and closed the club face and I lost it.
Q. How much did that drive on the 6 tee, where you bombed it down there and you even took off with your club and left Chris behind. How much did that help your confidence moving forward? Your first fairway hit.
ANDY ZHANG: No. 6? Oh, yeah, that hole. Well, what did I do? I left Chris behind? Oh, I hit my first fairway there. I finally made great contact with my driver and it felt great. And then from then on I think that's the first par I made, right? And then I kind of kept playing golf a little bit.
Q. You talked about how difficult the start was and then you weren't able to finish off well. That's part of learning, it's learning how to compose yourself, learning how to get your nerves under control. So to be able to go out there and have that experience, at 14 years of age, do you have a sense of how much that will help you as your golf career goes on?
ANDY ZHANG: Yes, it will definitely help a lot. It's something that I can never learn playing the junior tournaments. The junior tournaments, I start bad with maybe with a triple or double and then I can work my way in like probably finish around 1 over or even. But not here. Not in the Olympic Club. But still I think I kept myself pretty calm out there. I think I'm pretty happy with that.
Q. Some of the biggest names in the world, in the golf world have been amazed that you've been able to get here at 14 years of age and earn your way in. Tiger commented on it, Rory commented on it. We have heard a lot of the players just say, couldn't imagine playing the U.S. Open at 14. And you've done it. How proud of yourself are you?
ANDY ZHANG: I am really proud of myself, actually. Well I shouldn't say proud, I'm really happy to be here. I'm really honored especially that those other guys that I watch on TV growing up and having them talk about me, that's really an honor.
Q. How were the crowds out there? Were they yelling your name and that?
ANDY ZHANG: Yeah, they were. The first par I made they were like kind of like yelling for me and then I kind of gained my confidence and then every now and then I make a putt and they just got really excited and I liked that.
Q. How about the roar on 18 when you made that birdie?
ANDY ZHANG: Oh, yeah, that was, I think that that was the loudest one. Yeah. That was the second birdie I made the whole round and when I putted that one, it was like kind of in a hole, it was on the fringe and it was kind of in a hole and the ball kind of jumped after I hit it and if I don't hit the hole it probably is running to the front of the green, but luckily I caught the hole.
Q. The top players have all spoken about how they want you to enjoy this experience, was it possible at all to enjoy it?
ANDY ZHANG: It was. Definitely. I kind of didn't care that much about how many over I am, even though it's a, well, like pretty high after the first five holes. But I'm trying to forget about that, because I never had that big a crowd following me ever. And I never played a course like this before. The greens are just unbelievable. Everything is, to me, the rough is like impossible to chip out of. I don't know how they like shot 4 under, Michael Thompson, that's just amazing.
Q. Have you ever been to a U.S. Open before as a spectator? Have you ever gone as a spectator, been on the grounds of a U.S. Open?
ANDY ZHANG: No.
Q. Or any big tournament?
ANDY ZHANG: I dreamed once that I did, yeah, I did, coming to a U.S. Open. But, no, I never did. Only two PGA Tour, only one PGA Tour event that was Bay Hill Invitational. Another one was the Tavistock Cup between Lake Nona and what's it called?
Q. Did you ever experience this atmosphere even as a spectator?
ANDY ZHANG: No.
Q. So what is like to be on the grounds and out there playing in this atmosphere?
ANDY ZHANG: It was just, I was really nervous the first few holes. But then they started cheering for me and I know I can kind of handle it a little bit so it got better.
Q. You have to keep your focus in the middle of a U.S. Open round, were you able to take some time between shots and soak up the atmosphere and the seen?
ANDY ZHANG: Yeah I did. My buddy Chris, he kept me really calm and we joked a little bit in between shots, just trying to not like put everything on golf, tried to like get too intense, yeah.
Q. Thoughts for tomorrow?
ANDY ZHANG: I want to like I expect a better start than today. I do. The rest I just want to do my best and see how it goes.
Q. Could you do me a favor and just comment on in Mandarin on what your experience was like?
ANDY ZHANG: (Answer given in Mandarin.)
Q. What's your plan for the afternoon?
ANDY ZHANG: A little chipping and putting and then get some lunch.
Q. Do you have a prediction on the Heat game tonight?
ANDY ZHANG: Yeah, they have to win. They have to. They can't go 2 0. No. No.
Q. You shot 79 so tonight Lebron has to score that many tonight?
ANDY ZHANG: Yeah, exactly. I shot 79 so he has to, himself, score 79 points.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.