The last 10 days have been pretty memorable for Scott Gregory. First, the 23-year-old from England qualified for the US Open, advancing out of the sectional qualifier back home at Walton Heath. Then earlier this week, he finally got to meet Tiger Woods, posing for a picture with the 14-time Major champion that he’s keeping in his locker this week at Shinnecock Hills.
“I’ve been waiting for that picture for about 15 years,” said Gregory, who won the British Amateur in 2016 before turning pro later that year, but missed the opportunity to cross paths with Woods, who was out with a back injury. “It was great to finally meet him.”
It’s a moment Gregory won’t soon forget.
His opening round at the US Open? Well, that’s another story.
On a windswept morning at Shinnecock, where gusts were consistently 20-25 mph (32-40 km/h), Gregory struggled to a 22-over 92. Though the afternoon wave had yet to tee off, nine strokes separated Gregory from his nearest competitor. His was the highest score in the championship since a 92 by Felix Casas in the second round at Bethpage Black in 2002.
“It’s all a bit of a blur,” said a fairly upbeat Gregory given the circumstances.
The trouble began with a tee shot so far right on the par-4 third he had to play backwards just to get to the fairway. It got worse from there. He tripled the hole and followed with double bogeys on each of his next two holes as he continued to struggle off the tee.
“I tried everything: teeing it low, hitting bit draws, big slices, nothing worked,” said Gregory, who closed out the front nine with five straight bogeys to make the turn in 47. “If you stuck me in the fairway I would’ve played pretty good.
“I gave it everything I had. I’m not one to give up. I just tried to keep plugging away. I just couldn’t get driver in the fairway and it spiralled out of control.”
So much so that by the seventh hole, Gregory was hoping just to break 80. Then came another triple, at the 520-yard par-4 14th, following another wayward tee ball.
On the par-3 17th, the goal became breaking 90. But that went out the window after his fourth double of the day. He bogeyed the last one, too.
“If you don’t put it in the fairway, you’re not going to hit the green,” said Gregory, who added that it has been at least eight years, maybe longer, since he’d recorded a score that high. “My aim was to just hit it in the middle of the green every hole. You can’t hit it long, short, left or right.”
It didn’t help that he was battling a slight left wrist injury, one that only became more enflamed as he kept having to hit from the thick rough.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “But sometimes you have weeks like that. Look at Tiger and Rory, they struggle occasionally.”
McIlroy shot 80 on Thursday to match his career-worst round.
“Realising you are quite good,” Gregory said with a smile. “Everyone has bad days.”