Bethesda, Md. — Here’s a situation you don’t run into everyday, but, hey, it’s the U.S. Open. Defending champ Graeme McDowell and playing partner, reigning British Open titleholder Louis Oosthuizen, came upon their lay-up shots on the ninth fairway during Thursday’s opening round at Congressional Country Club, only to discover their golf balls snuggled up tight.
Oosthuizen laid up on the par-5 with a 3-iron, McDowell with a hybrid, according to Oosthuizen. “We got to the balls and they were touching each other, lying next to each other,” he said. “On the green you see it now and then, but I’ve never seen it on the fairway.”
A USGA rules official determined that Oosthuizen was away and told McDowell to mark his ball a club-length away, according to Devil Ball Golf. Under the rules, a golfer may not clean the ball or otherwise change its position before repositioning it on the turf, but GMac made certain to thank his fellow competitor for leaving him a spic-and-span lie.
“Very unusual circumstance there on nine,” McDowell said after carding a first-round 1-under 70. “We laid them up from about 220 yards and the two balls were touching in the fairway, which I’ve never seen on the golf course before.
“Louis had to go first, and [I’m] thankful he didn’t remove a huge piece of turf,” McDowell added. “I didn’t know what I was going to do to recreate my lie if he had taken a huge divot. He picked it off the turf quite cleanly and I was thankful for that.”
Oosthuizen headed into Friday at 2-under, four strokes back of Rory McIlroy, who, with three holes to play Thursday, was playing masterful golf. Well into his opening round, at least, the young golfer from Northern Ireland appeared to have put his Masters meltdown in the rear-view mirror.