Any way you look at it, it’s been an odd — and definitely less-than-ideal — first couple of days for the two former Nittany Lions golfers at Oakmont Country Club.
Plagued by three rain delays on Thursday and changing weather conditions on Friday morning, Kevin Foley battled through his first round and still has his entire second round to play on Saturday morning before knowing whether or not he made the cut.
And TJ Howe, scheduled to complete 36 holes on Friday alone after his tee time was washed out on Thursday, will have to finish his second round Saturday morning after darkness cut it short at 8:42 p.m.
As Friday concluded at the U.S. Open, Foley was 5-over par, while Howe stood at 9-over par. The latter was 6-over after his first round, and 3-over through 13 holes in the second.
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“I’m not on pace to be up there toward the top of the leaderboard, but we’ll see how this round two goes,” Foley said.
Howe said after his first round that he felt fine physically.
If anything, he thought doing 36 holes would be better than playing as originally scheduled on Thursday.
“With the crazy schedule I’ve had the past couple of weeks, I thought having a day off would help me a little bit,” the Osceola native said.
But early on, the break in action seemed like it hurt his play. Howe was erratic with the driver in the first round, hitting 7 of 14 fairways, and cold with his putter.
“I didn’t play a very solid front nine,” he admitted.
But the 2010 All-American rebounded. Howe finished out his first round par, birdie, par and par.
That gave him confidence as he prepped for the second 18.
“It gives me a chance,” Howe said.
As Howe mentioned, it’s not as if his body is unfamiliar with playing 36 holes competitively in a day. Just two weeks ago he handled 36 straight to qualify for the U.S. Open at sectionals.
“And I played better in the second round then,” Howe said of his 5-under performance after posting 2-under in the first round.
Unfortunately for Howe, Oakmont tends to take a lot out of a golfer.
While he birdied the par-4 18th, Howe had a double bogey on the 11th and bogeyed the 2nd and 15th.
The course conditions, as they changed throughout the morning and afternoon, did no favors to even the best of golfers.
Thankfully for Foley, he didn’t have to deal with ridiculously fast greens. His day was done at 9:30 a.m.
Sure, the greens will likely be just as fast, if not faster, on Saturday. But at least Foley had all day Friday to mentally prepare and rest after a stop-and-go Thursday.
Foley said it was frustrating to practice on a firm course Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, only for it to be soft on Thursday.
“At that point you have to adapt as quickly as you can,” the 29-year-old New Jersey native said. “Hopefully the course will get back to where it should be.”
After completing 10 holes on Thursday at 5-over, Foley did well to finish out the remaining eight without conceding a stroke. He had two birdies, four pars and two bogeys on Friday morning.
One of those birdies came on the hardest hole of the first round.
The par-4 ninth played at a 4.526 average and induced 14 double bogeys, the most of any hole all day.
In fact, only seven players birdied the ninth in the first 18: Foley, round-leader Andrew Landry, 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont champion Angel Cabrera, two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood, Byeong-Hun An and Jon Rahm.
“To do it on a hole like that, it’s a nice way to end the round,” Foley said.
As for the in-between, the three-time All-American and Penn State record-holder for most tournament championships (six) didn’t necessarily light the course ablaze. In his first 10 holes, Foley had six bogeys.
Even still, Foley is in an alright spot.
“It’s not exactly where I wanted to be,” Foley said. “But it’s a U.S. Open, and it’s Oakmont.”
And with a chance to make the cut, Foley will take it.