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Youngest U.S. Open Golfer Zhang Matches World No. 1 Luke Donald

Andy Zhang
Andy Zhang of China hits his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first round of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on June 14, 2012 in San Francisco. Photographer: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Andy Zhang, the youngest golfer on record in U.S. Open history, matched world No. 1 Luke Donald in the first round of the U.S. Open. Unfortunately, they’re 9-over par and in danger of being eliminated today.

Zhang, 14, who is from China and lives in Reunion, Florida, began his first major tournament with a triple bogey 7. He followed with a double bogey and three consecutive bogeys to go 8 over after five holes.

Zhang said his hands and knees were shaking as he prepared to begin his round at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

“On the first tee, I was like, ‘Just please don’t hit a hundred-yard slice,”’ he said in a news conference. “I was shaking really hard.”

He settled down after the rough start, with two birdies, a bogey and a double bogey the rest of the round for a 79. He ended his day by sinking a putt from the fringe for a birdie and celebrating with a fist pump.

“At least I broke 80,” he said.

He wasn’t the only notable player to struggle on the first day of the second major of the year. Donald had nine bogeys and no birdies in his round. Masters Tournament winner Bubba Watson had a 78, while defending champion Rory McIlroy is 7-over. Phil Mickelson, a four-time major champion and five-time runner-up at the U.S. Open, is 6-over.

Zhang and Donald are tied for 141st place going into the second day. The top 60 players and ties qualify for the third and fourth rounds.

Zhang made the field as an alternate when Paul Casey withdrew because of a shoulder injury. Zhang competed in a qualifier in Florida on June 4 and shot rounds of 70 and 72 to earn a first alternate position.

Zhang is the youngest golfer to participate in the championship at least since the U.S. Open returned from a four-year hiatus following World War II in 1946. The youngest previous competitor on record in the tournament’s modern era was Tadd Fujikawa, who was 15 when he played in the 2006 tournament at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, according to the U.S. Golf Association.

“When I was 14, I couldn’t play like that,” Michael Thompson, a 27-year-old American who holds the first-round lead at 4-under 66, said in a news conference. “It took me roughly about a year or so to experience crowds like they have out here and really be able to handle it.”

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