SAN FRANCISCO — After four holes in Sunday’s final round of the U.S. Open, Jonathan Byrd was feeling good about his chances of a decent finish at The Olympic Club.
Then came holes 5 through 8 — or, as the former Columbia resident termed it, “a train wreck.”
In those four holes, Byrd went 4-over par — bogey, double bogey, bogey, double — to see his quest for a top-10 berth and automatic invitation back to the Open next year vanish. He finished at 14-over after his closing 77 — as many strokes over par in 18 holes as the previous 54.
“I was playing really well going into No. 5,” with four straight pars, the former Clemson All-American said. “I played that hole fine; it’s a tough hole and I almost made a great par, hit a good putt.
“Then I got derailed on No. 6. I hit an awesome tee shot, the first time I’ve hit that fairway (this week); I’ve got a 9-iron in my hand, and walk away with double” after plugging his approach in a bunker, then 3-putting from 70 feet.
It was a similar story of short-iron woes at the par-3 eighth, where Byrd’s 7-iron tee shot also caught a bunker. He hit a thin shot out, rolling off the green into the rough, and couldn’t recover. At the seventh, “an easy birdie hole with that pin position,” he also bogeyed.
The good news? Byrd, paired with Germany’s Alex Cejka, played the next nine holes in 1-under, with a birdie at the par-3 15th, before a gust of wind at the 18th dropped his approach — again — into a greenside bunker.
“The wind switched on me right when I hit,” he said. “I hit a really good shot, a yard from being six feet” from the hole, and he then failed to make par from the sand.
“Other than that stretch of holes (5-8), I played fine all day,” he said between coughs, which he had been battling since Saturday. “I may have run out of gas a little, not feeling well, but I don’t blame (his play) on that.”
Despite his disappointment Sunday, Byrd for the most part continued a stretch of solid golf. In his four tournaments preceding the Open, he finished no worse that a tie for 12th, and contended at The Memorial before finishing T-6th. He has five top-10s in 13 tournaments.
“I’m having a good year, and I’m pleased how I’m playing,” he said. “I still don’t think I’ve played my best golf yet. I’m not changing anything, just staying on track.”
Byrd will take a two-week break before returning to the Tour at The Greenbrier Classic, July 5-8.
“I’m just going to keep plugging away,” he said. “I’d love to win a tournament this year. I’m just trying to keep getting in contention.”