Saturday, June 15, 2019
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — He’s 20, tall and lean, an amateur savvy beyond his growth rings.
He has a short game we all can envy.
I wrote this about him for his hometown paper, The Columbian of Vancouver, Wash.
“Spencer Tibbits promised his first U.S. Open would be a learning experience, no matter what happened this week at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
“What happened was he played even-par golf over his final 27 holes. He scrambled from every conceivable position and lie. He recorded no score worse than bogey in his two rounds.
“He missed the cut to play on the weekend, after it all, by one stroke.
“What he learned, he said, was all the talk of tiny greens and punishing U.S. Open setups is not idle chatter.
“He learned how special the talent is among players at this level.
“He learned to appreciate the views on a golf course that tests the limits of adjectival vocabulary for anyone trying to describe it.
“Tibbits closed his tournament Friday with a birdie on No. 18 to finish off an even-par 71 after a Thursday 74. By mid-afternoon, as the cut line settled at no higher than two over par, Tibbits’ two-day total of three-over 145 left him on the outside for Saturday and Sunday.
” ‘I grinded my heart out,’ he said after signing his scorecard. ‘I made up and downs from everywhere.’ ”
Tibbits was, in fact, frequently brilliant from rough and bunker. He had to be.
On Friday, he hit only eight of 18 greens. He saved par from the rough or sand on the third, 10th, 12th and 17th holes.
His wedge game saved him from double-bogey or worse on No. 2, when his shot out of a fairway bunker flew into heavy junk far right of the green.
From there, he did well to pop it up and into greenside rough, from which he flop-chipped to four feet and made the putt for bogey.
A chip from the rough on the rugged par-5 No. 6 led to a two-foot putt for one of Tibbits’ four Friday birdies. He made a 25-foot putt for birdie on 14, and his birdies to open and close his round, on 1 and 18, were of the conventional variety — hit the green, make the putt.
He’s 20, as I mentioned, insanely talented, a junior-to-be at Oregon State University. He has a whole golf life in front of him, and he’d like to make money at it along the way. Tibbits says he’s in no hurry: He’s having too much fun as a Beaver.
A guy could lose his ass, and has, betting on the next young gun that steps up. It’s tough out there. The rocks are big, just off-shore, with the ocean water ever-ready to splash all over a dream of golfish glory.
You won’t read it here first, and not last. You will be reading about Spencer Tibbits, and you won’t have to seek out The Columbian to find the story.
His short game … did I mention that?