SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Scott Gregory found a dubious way to enter U.S. Open lore on Thursday, becoming the first player in 16 years to shoot 90 or above during the first round of the tournament.
Gregory, 23, from Portsmouth, England, shot 92 at Shinnecock Hills, with two triple-bogeys, three double-bogeys, 10 bogeys and just three pars. He became the first player to shoot 90 or above since Felix Casas shot 92 during the second round of the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage.
A second-year pro who in 2016 won the Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl in Wales, Gregory was pragmatic about his rough day. “Before I hit it, I knew it was going to be difficult,” said Gregory, who last week qualified for the U.S. Open at the sectional at Walton Heath in England, shooting scores of 67-69. “I didn’t get it in play off the tee, which is obviously a big issue around here. Any rough you go in, you can’t really attach pins and get on the greens.
“I knew it was going to be tough. It was wind, and I’ve played in wind before, so that wasn’t the issue. The issue was I didn’t hit it on the short stuff very much.”
Gregory hit just five of 15 fairways and only four of 18 greens. The wind, which came from a different direction than the players, caused fits, as did the overall difficulty of the course. There were already several scores in the 80s as the first round continued. It was the first time in the four modern U.S. Opens at Shinnecock Hills that a player shot in the 90s.
He said he could not remember the last time he had failed to break 90.
“It would have had to have been eight years ago or more,” he said. “It’s been a long time, and this is not really the week I wanted to revisit that score.
“My goal, really, was to hit it in the middle of the green on every hole,” Gregory said. “You can’t miss, short, long, left or right. You hit it in the middle, and you’re all right. Every time, I was trying to get it in the fairway and didn’t do that. Then chip out and get it on the green. You’ve got to play sensible. The guy who is going to win this week is going to hit a lot of fairways and hit in the middle of greens. You’re just not going to be able to hit it close very often.”
Gregory played in three major championships in 2017 due to his Amateur title and also got an invitation to the Memorial Tournament. This year, he has not qualified for any tour, managing to get into four Challenge Tour events — the European Tour’s developmental tour — making just one cut.
His highlight for the week is easy. On Wednesday, while hitting balls on the driving range, he managed to get a photo with Tiger Woods.
“I’ve been waiting for that picture for about 15 years,” he said. “It was great to finally meet him. I think everyone in the golfing world is happy to see him back. It’s weird, you can feel when he is about. If you’re on the putting green and you haven’t seen him, you can still hear that he’s round.”
Gregory said he already has the photo framed and posted in his locker — where he’s unlikely to be posting the scorecard from Thursday.
“I’ll forget about it quickly,” he said.
It was just the third score in the 90s at a U.S. Open since 1990.