Louis Oosthuizen nearly pulled off a comeback for the ages in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, firing a 29 on the inward nine to briefly pull into a tie for the lead late in the final round. His run of six birdies over his last seven holes was highlighted by a hole-out for birdie from about 100 yards on No. 14.
“Obviously, you have to have some luck,” said Neal Lancaster, who will make his U.S. Senior Open debut this week at Del Paso Country Club. “To shoot a 29, anytime you can do that, it’s a great feat, especially when you do it in a U.S. Open.”
Lancaster was one of the millions watching on Sunday, and was doing so with particular interest. The Smithfield, N.C., native won the 1994 GTE Byron Nelson Classic, his lone victory in nearly 20 years on the PGA Tour. Yet he is best remembered for being the first player to break 30 for nine holes during a U.S. Open, doing it on his last nine at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in 1995 and then, incredibly, repeating the feat the following year during Round 2 of the championship at Oakland Hills Country Club.
While they are equal in the record books, each 29 came under entirely different circumstances. While Lancaster’s run on Sunday at Shinnecock vaulted him into an eventual tie for fourth, his record-tying feat in 1996 served to put him inside the cut line. Each also had a completely different feel, Lancaster recalled.
“I knew I was charging up the leader board [in 1995], but when [his caddie] told me, boy, it really made me nervous. I hit a 5-iron long and left over the green; I’ll never forget it,” said Lancaster, who would get up and down on the 72nd hole to earn his place in history. He had a much different perspective the next time he was in that position. “I remember I chipped in on No. 15 to get [on pace] for 29, and I remember saying, ‘Wow, I can break my own record.’ Luckily, I made about a 4-footer coming downhill [on No. 18] to shoot 29.”
In between Lancaster and Oosthuizen, Vijay Singh also joined the exclusive club, firing a 29 during Round 2 in the 2003 championship at Olympia Fields Country Club, the site of this year’s U.S. Amateur. In Lancaster’s experience, no matter where you are playing, there is one trait that stands out when something special like that happens.
“When you get going like that, you just get in the zone, and we don’t get in them often enough as golfers,” he said. “In my case, I just tried to keep being aggressive, and I think Oosthuizen did too. He just tried to keep being aggressive, and when you get it going like that, you don’t really see anything.”
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