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U.S. Open notebook: Mike Davis takes break as CEO to be caddie

UPDATED: Sat., June 19, 2021

Fans cheer on Phil Mickelson along the seventh fairway during the second round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Friday, June 18, 2021, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.  (Associated Press)
Fans cheer on Phil Mickelson along the seventh fairway during the second round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Friday, June 18, 2021, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (Associated Press)
By Doug Ferguson Associated Press

SAN DIEGO – Mike Davis is retiring at the end of the month as CEO of the USGA, and his stress level is at a low point for the U.S. Open. For starters, he has been seen wearing tennis shoes this week. And on Saturday, he was wearing a caddie bib.

Davis went 18 holes at Torrey Pines with Jason Gore, who played as a noncompeting marker with Akshay Bhatia in the first group.

Gore is best known for playing in the final group of the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 and closing with an 84 to tie for 49th. He now works for the USGA as a director of player services, giving PGA Tour players one of their own in dealing with the USGA.

He was to play only if there was an odd-number of players to make the cut. Bhatia birdied the final hole Friday night to be the last of 71 players to make the cut.

Gore was in. He needed a caddie. He texted his boss.

“I asked him, ‘Hey, you want to go nine holes?’ I originally thought 18, and I’m like, I’m not going to push the envelope,” Gore said. “I thought it would be kind of fun. All of a sudden he texted me last night, ‘If it’s an odd number, I’ll go all 18 with you.’ ”

Davis said he told Gore that playing with only eight clubs – that would lighten the bag – was acceptable. Gore wasn’t buying.

The last time Davis caddied?

“I think it was at Chambersburg Country Club when I was 12, 13, 14 years old,” Davis said. “This was a treat.”

Gore’s score didn’t matter, but he suspected it was about 77, and he was OK with that. He hasn’t played the U.S. Open since a tie for 47th at Pebble Beach in 2010.

“I might have embarrassed myself, but it wasn’t with my golf clubs,” Gore said. “The golf course is hard. It’s long for an old man. I haven’t touched a club in three weeks, and it was more about just going out and having a good time, stay out of Akshay’s way. I think we did a good job with that.”

Gore gets one more round Sunday, and it could really make him feel old. In 71st place was Wilco Nienaber, the longest hitter in golf.

And he’s getting a new caddie.

Lefty’s lament: Whatever thoughts Phil Mickelson had of finally winning a U.S. Open will have to wait until next year. The 51-year-old PGA champion had a rough time at Torrey Pines.

Mickelson was wild off the tee early and it cost him. And then he struggled on the greens, particularly a four-putt double bogey on the 17th hole. It added to a 40 on the back nine for a 76, and Mickelson was toward the bottom of the leaderboard.

Lefty’s assessment: “I just completely lost it out there.”

“I know I’m playing a little bit better, but I just kind of lost it on Thursday (75) and today,” he said. “I know that I’ve been playing well, and I’m going to go to the range and try to find it, and go have a good round tomorrow.”

Mickelson is playing the next two weeks in the Travelers Championship and the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He said he would try to find moment he created at Kiawah Island and see if he can resume some good golf.

The good news? As PGA champion, he gets four more cracks at the only major keeping him from the career Grand Slam.

Bland golf: Englishman Richard Bland came down to earth Saturday with a 41 on the back nine that likely put him out of contention in the U.S. Open.

Bland was a surprise co-leader after two rounds and was holding his own in the final group through the front nine. But he made five bogeys on the back nine, including the last three holes.

“That’s the U.S. Open,” Bland said after carding a 6-over 77 that left him six shots back. “Some days it’s just going to beat you up all day, and today was my day.”

The 48-year-old, who went 477 starts before finally winning earlier this year on the European Tour, said he drove the ball well but couldn’t find enough targets with his irons.

“Tomorrow’s a new day and just put this one down to experience,’’ he said.

Tokyo calling: Saturday was a big moving day for Paul Casey, and not just in the U.S. Open.

This is the final week before the 60-man field at the Olympics is determined by the world ranking. Countries get two spots, and Casey is in a tight battle for the second one with Matt Fitzpatrick. Casey is No. 19 in the world, Fitzpatrick is No. 20.

“You couldn’t slide a piece of paper between Fitzy and I, can you?” Casey said.

Casey shot a 67, matching the best score of the U.S. Open. Fitzpatrick had three birdies and no bogeys over his last 10 holes to salvage a 73. He was four shots behind Casey.

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