A text message from Adam Scott to Melbourne amateur Lukas Michel, which went unanswered for 14 hours, set up a practice round which he said could be the highlight of his major championship debut.
Michel, 26, will be one of nine Aussies in the field this week at Winged Foot, the site of Geoff Ogilvy’s memorable 2006 US Open win.
Victory in last year’s US Mid-Amateur championship guaranteed Michel not just a US Open start but a spot in the Masters at Augusta in November, a course he already visited earlier this year before COVID-19 forced the tournament to its later timeslot.
But having walked the Winged Foot layout, where the rough is so thick in parts players won’t be able to see their shoes let alone the ball, and then playing on Sunday, Michel has lowered his playing expectations to meet his $751 odds of winning.
Instead he said playing a full 18 with Masters champion Scott, who he hopes he may be paired with at Augusta too, would provide as good a memory as teeing off in the opening round.
“That’s going to be one of the highlights of the week. I’m 26, so in 2004 when Adam Scott is coming through starting to be the next big Aussie start, I’m 12 and he was the guy I looked up to the most,” Michel said from New York.
“I had never met him, but I sent him a message and then Adam texted me three or four days ago and I completely missed it. It took me 14 hours before I realise and replied. I saw him walking off the ninth green and introduced myself. Myself and Curtis Luck, who I went to high school with, are playing with him.”
Not your average Monday…
US Mid-Am champ @LukasJMichel 🇦🇺 spent some quality time with @CurtisLuck6 🇦🇺, Ryo Ishikawa 🇯🇵 and the one and only @AdamScott 🇦🇺 ahead of the @usopengolf. 😳🤩#Solid #CouldBeWorse pic.twitter.com/nKvuVFnTEf
Organisers have dialled it up for the tournament, with the course looming as being so difficult a score as high as three or four over par could win.
Ogilvy’s winning score in 2006 was five-over par, and the course has been lengthened since then.
It’s a tough test for the world’s best, let alone an amateur like Michel who is fronting up for his first major.
“It’s slightly more stressful because you know how hard it is to score pars even on certain holes. They’ve added length since Geoff won (in 2006), it’s going to be tough,” Michel said.
“I walked the front nine and thought ‘it’s not too bad’, but then playing, and seeing how much that rough grabs your club, it’s going to be tough.
“You know some of the par fours will average close to five because they are 520 yards, par fives converted to par fours. It’s more a mental exercise than a physical one.
“Someone will have to play really well to go under par.”
5 and a half months ago FlagBag Golf Co. was just a dream.
This week a FlagBag will be on the shoulder of @LukasJMichel in the @usopengolf at Winged Foot!
Thanks to Lukas and our supporters for making the past 5 months a success beyond our wildest dreams!
Go low, Lukas! pic.twitter.com/0LQxJpVgDw
Michel officially reported for US Open duties on Sunday, which included a temperature check, a task which will be repeated daily, and admission to the biosecure “bubble” the event will be played in.
He has been turning heads on the practice range in New York sporting his unique “flag bag”, a pencil bag covered with flags from various clubs and wins, including his home club Metropolitan, which he’ll use when the tournament begins on Thursday.
“Yeah it’s in, as long as the weather holds out and it doesn’t rain. It’s been catching some eyes for sure,” he said from New York.
If you're squeamish, look away now: @lhgolf5 with the view from the Winged Foot rough today ahead of the @usopengolf…
Michel, who hasn’t made a firm decision on when, or if, he’ll turn pro, won’t get caught up in the magnitude of the event or the difficulty of the course, knowing he has to enjoy it too.
“I’m a pretty level person, I don’t idolise a bunch of people on the tour, I don’t think I’ll get super starstruck by the situations. In a way, in terms of performance, that’s a good way to be,” he said.
“At the same time I am trying to make it really memorable and appreciate it for what it is. It’s pretty awesome to be doing this.”
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