OAKMONT, Pa. — When you dream of playing in your first U.S. Open, as Mike Miller did for all of his 24 years before Thursday, the sun always is shining, the day is smooth and your round is just fine. That all went haywire for Miller, except for the part about the fine round.
The young pro from Brewster in Westchester County personified the patient equilibrium that the Open demands. He played like a 30-time veteran in his first exposure to the toughest test in golf, withstanding three thunderstorm delays and an early suspension at Oakmont Country Club Thursday. He returned Friday morning to play his last seven holes, birdied two of three out of the chute, and ended with a very creditable 2-over-par 72.
He will be back for his second round of the rain-delayed event Saturday morning, tied with defending champion Jordan Spieth and ahead of notables such as Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler. That is, the son of Knollwood Country Club pro Bob Miller has a shot to make the cut in his first try.
“I think this is great. I think this is playing right into my hands of hopefully playing well [Saturday] and being here on the weekend,” he said after making a par 4 from the dense rough on No. 18. “I’m definitely here on Saturday, which is cool.”
Attitude is everything at an Open. Raymond Floyd has said he was inspired to win the 1986 Open at Shinnecock Hills by having read an article about the championship being a battle of the mind. Shane Lowry, who endured the delays and suspension Thursday and finished his first round of 2-under Friday morning, said, “I find the guys that are moaning about it are guys that are going to be going home early.”
Andrew Landry kept a positive outlook despite having to wake up early and come to the course for one putt. He made it, finishing at 4-under, the best first round ever for an Open at Oakmont. “I thought about it a little bit [Thursday] night, but I didn’t, like, dream about it,” he said after his quick workday.
Miller always did dream about the U.S. Open, which he never had even attended until this week. He never envisioned the long soggy slog that Thursday became.
“I’ve never been in a tournament where I wasn’t able to finish a round,” said the young pro who shot 65 at Bethpage Black to win the New York State Open two years ago. “We’ve had delays and everything like that, but never where I’m in the middle of my round and I’ve had to come back. It’s the last kind of thing you wanted in your first U.S. Open, to go through three delays. You’re trying to accommodate everyone, making sure everyone is happy, everyone is not in the rain.
“It’s so tough, but it’s really cool,” he said.
He has enjoyed the whole ride: getting the courtesy car on Monday, seeing so many family members and friends in the gallery. “It has been unbelievable, it has been spectacular,” he said, adding he was extremely pumped on the first tee. When he saw a tape of his swing on the pull hook, he said, “I’m surprised I made contact.”
Even the thunderstorms had their benefits. “During all these rain delays, I was hitting balls next to Rickie, I was hitting balls next to Rory,” he said. “I think I snuck on TV [Thursday] because they were zooming in on Rory and I just happened to be there.”
Through all of it, he was not awestruck. He convinced himself he has enough game to play with these guys. And plans on keeping up the effort, no matter what. He was unfazed when tentative plans (later scrapped) had him beginning at 9:16 Friday night. Miller was jokingly asked if he ever had played that late.
“I did, once, at Knollwood, at a barbecue, when we had some drinks,” he said. Before the USGA decided against the folly of asking players to play after dusk, Miller insisted he would be ready. He is ready for anything. He has been dreaming about this.