With apologies to Yogi Berra, it’s “déjà vu all over again” for Chris Crawford this week.
The three-time All-America player at Drexel University earned notoriety last June for sinking a 40-foot putt on his final hole of sectional qualifying to earn a berth in his first U.S. Open. This year, Crawford put together rounds of 66-68, accentuated by another long birdie putt on the same hole as in 2016, to again advance out of the sectional round at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J.
“It’s nice to be back,” said Crawford, 23, of Bensalem, Pa., who had his Drexel coach, Ben Feld, caddie for him in both sectionals.
The similarities pretty much end there. In 2016, Crawford competed at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club, which has hosted a record nine U.S. Opens. This year’s venue, Erin Hills, is hosting its first U.S. Open. Last year, Crawford played a practice round with then-world No. 1 Jason Day, during which Crawford’s caddie, Bill Henaghan, tumbled into a bunker and broke his ankle. This year, Crawford toured Erin Hills in his Monday practice round with Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Jordan Spieth, and nobody got hurt.
“Coming in last year, there was a lot to process,” said Crawford. “It’s unavoidable to come here and not be a little wide-eyed. But this time, I got acclimated a little quicker and was able to focus more on golf.”
Not that Monday’s round didn’t have its moments.
“There was myself, Jordan, Jim and Scott Harvey, and then Steve played up on the first hole and joined us for the day,” said Crawford. “It was awesome. They’ve been on Presidents Cup teams and Ryder Cup teams forever, and Jordan and Jim are past champions. To hang around them and see how they approach the practice rounds – especially around the greens – I definitely gained some knowledge.”
Crawford shot rounds of 76-76 and missed the 36-hole cut by six strokes at Oakmont, and he can apply a few other lessons from his 2016 experience.
“I think I did a good job of conserving energy last year, and this year it’s even more important, because the walk is so difficult,” said Crawford, who played in the 2011 U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills, missing the cut. “One thing from last year: I don’t think I prepared quite well enough from a strategy standpoint. There were a couple of holes where I didn’t have the proper lines off the tee or really good yardages. I didn’t quite fine-tune it enough. You need to know exactly what you’re trying to do out there, because if you miss by even a little bit, you can really get punished.”
Spoken like a true U.S. Open veteran.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.