N.C. State golf coach Richard Sykes was at Pinehurst No. 2 on Friday to follow one of his former players in the U.S. Open.
Not Tim Clark. He’s not here.
Not Carl Pettersson. He didn’t make it to Pinehurst, either.
While it’s a rarity to have both those former Wolfpackers missing, given their PGA Tour success, Garth Mulroy is making his first U.S. Open appearance and is the only player with an N.C. State connection in the field.
“I didn’t know that, actually,” Mulroy said Friday. “That is weird because Tim and Carl are in most majors. At least one of us is here.”
Clark didn’t make it through sectional qualifying and Pettersson chose not to enter a 36-hole sectional. Mulroy, who lives in Raleigh, shot 69-68 to claim one of the 15 spots available at the Walton Heath qualifier in England.
Mulroy had an opening-round 71 at No. 2, then a 72 Friday that left him at 3-over 143. He sandwiched birdies at the par-5 fifth and par-4 seventh hole around a bogey at the par-3 sixth on his final nine holes to survive the cut.
“It’s nice to play near home,” Mulroy said. “Any event where there’s not much traveling involved is nice and it’s a lot easier on the body.”
Mulroy should know. The South Africa native has the frequent-flier miles to prove it and a much-used passport.
For the past two years, he has split his time between the Web.com Tour and the European Tour. In 2012, it was the PGA Tour and the European Tour, saying he played 37 events in all.
“Probably not the smartest ting to do,” he said.
That’s a lot of hotel living, but Mulroy and his wife changed that up this week. They’re in an RV parked not far from the Pinehurst practice range.
“That’s how I knew it rained a lot last night,” he said, laughing. “When I opened the door there was 2 or 3 inches of standing (water).”
An inch of rain fell Thursday night and Mulroy had an early tee time Friday. He expected to find a softer course, one more conducive to scoring.
“I thought it actually played a little bit harder this morning, that much longer,” he said. “In the waste areas today you never got a (good) lie. There were like runouts and holes from the flooding the last night.”
Asked if he spent much time in the waste areas Friday, Mulroy flashed a rueful smile.
“I hit it in that stuff a lot, especially on the front nine,” he said. “It’s hard enough here in the fairways and I was hacking it out of the other stuff.”
Mulroy, 35, has one victory on the European Tour, the 2011 Alfred Dunhill Championship. He has two top-10 finishes in European Tour events this year as he hopped from continent to continent, and plans to stay in the U.S. and enter more Web.com events in the coming months.
Mulroy has been working recently with Chase Duncan, another former Wolfpack player who now is a golf instructor based at Lonnie Poole Golf Course at N.C. State.
“Nothing too crazy,” Mulroy said. “I’m not trying to rebuild any major swing mechanics. I don’t need to swing it perfect, I don’t need to swing like Adam Scott and I’ll never be No. 1 in the world. I’m fine just playing my game.”
It got him to Pinehurst. It’s got him to Saturday.