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US Open notes: A chance to play with Mickelson

By Laura Keeley and Chip Alexander
lkeeley@newsobserver.com calexander@newsobserver.com

As the world’s top-ranked amateur, Matthew Fitzpatrick is no stranger to large galleries.

The 19-year-old Sheffield, England, native was the low amateur at the 2013 British Open, and he competed in this year’s Masters, missing the cut by one stroke. Arguably the largest gallery Fitzpatrick has played in front of, he said, came in the final round 2013 U.S. Amateur, at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. His win in that tournament gave him his exemptions in Augusta and here this week at Pinehurst No. 2.

But when Fitzpatrick starts on the 10th tee Thursday at 7:51 a.m., he might play in front of more people than he ever has before – thanks to his playing partners, 2013 U.S. Open Champion Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson.

“It will be nice to meet Phil properly and play with him,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think there are a lot of people rooting for Phil this week. It would be nice to try and use that support for him for me.”

This will be the last hurrah for Fitzpatrick as an amateur, as he will turn professional in time for next weekend’s Irish Open. After that, he will use the rest of his seven sponsor invites to tournaments throughout Europe and try to earn his European Tour card.

For this week, Fitzpatrick’s aim is the same as all the other amateurs.

“Just to make the cut and push on from there,” he said, after spending 10 minutes fulfilling all autograph requests for fans waiting off of the 18th green. That’s the aim. If I can make the cut and push on from there, I’ll be really happy.”

McIlroy makes switch: Rory McIlroy is making an equipment change for the Open. Out of the bag has come a wedge and into the bag a 3-iron.

McIlroy usually carries four wedges but decided on the switch this week as part of his strategy for playing No. 2.

“There’s going to be holes where you’re going to lay back,” he said Wednesday. “The 3-iron you’re going to have to use off some tees, some par-4s. I’ll probably hit it off the par-5, 10th hole (and) play that as a three-shot hole. The par-3 sixth hole is another one that a 3-iron is going to be needed.”

Inspiring Aussie: Adam Scott winning the 2013 Masters and moving to No. 1 in the world rankings this year has inspired a number of young golfers and especially young Australian golfers.

“It has been very big for Australian golf,” said Oliver Goss, who is playing in his first U.S. Open. “Adam is certainly (getting) current and future generations into the game, and getting more and more players into the game of golf. It’s great.”

Goss, 20, lives in the Western Australia city of Perth but plays college golf at Tennessee. He was runner-up to Matthew Fitzpatrick in the finals of the 2013 U.S. Amateur, earning him an invitation to this year’s Masters, where he was the only amateur to make the cut.

Goss put in a practice round with Scott at Augusta National but already had played with him during the 2013 Australian Masters.

“He’s great on and off the course, which is what I like the most about him,” Goss said. “Very polite. He’s very serious when he’s playing or practicing and then after the round he’s great.”

Ogilvie a No. 2 admirer: At 40, Joe Ogilvie isn’t sure how many more U.S. Opens he’ll get into, but plans on making the most of this one.

Ogilvie said Wednesday he has played Pinehurst No. 2 many times, often driving down from Durham during his years on the Duke golf team.

“But never like this,” he said, smiling. “I think this is just fantastic, what (Bill) Coore and (Ben) Crenshaw did. They took Donald Ross’ masterpiece and they actually improved it with a restoration.

“The only difference is the greens are probably five feet on the Stimpmeter faster than what he intended. But (it’s) a fabulous golf course. It’s playing very nice, very fair. Hopefully they will keep it that way.”

Ogilvie is one of three Duke golfers in the Open field along with Kevin Streelman and Ryan Blaum, noting, “I think the quality of the program has been pretty darn good lately.”

Tickets sold out: For the 28th consecutive year, tickets for the U.S. Open Championship have sold out.

“Past championships at Pinehurst have set the benchmark for ticket sales and attendance,” said Thomas J. O’Toole, Jr., President of the United States Golf Association. “This is another testament to the support we have always received from the people of North Carolina.”

Tickets for juniors are still available on-site at will call and all admission gates during the tournament. Juniors ages 12 and younger will be admitted for free all week when accompanied by an adult ticket holder. Tickets for juniors ages 13 to 17 will be available for $35. There is a maximum of two junior tickets per one adult ticket holder.

EAT UP: For those wondering about concession prices on the course, cheeseburgers are $7.50, hot dogs $5, grilled chicken $8, chips $3 and sodas $3.50.

Oh, yeah, beer. It’s going for $6 and $6.50.

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