June 23, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
– Fresh from his first major and weeks from a second, Ollie Schniederjans learned enough at last week’s U.S. Open to make a suggestion to champion Jordan Spieth. When the 21-year-old seeks to win his third straight major in next month’s British Open at St. Andrews, maybe Spieth should consider Ollie good luck.
“I played a practice round Wednesday with Jordan [at Chambers Bay], and … I played with him before the Valspar,” Schniederjans said of his own March PGA Tour debut. “He won there, and he won the Open. I think he should play with me.”
Spieth is the latest, greatest to hit golf, the first to win Masters and U.S. Open titles in the same year since Tiger Woods in 2002 and the youngest national champion since famed Georgia Tech graduate Bobby Jones won at 21 in 1923.
He’s also Schniederjans’ peer. The two crossed paths on junior golf circuits, and as college freshmen. They’re friends, just like former Tech golfer Matt Kuchar, with whom Ollie also practiced last week.
Spieth turned professional after one year at Texas and has won $17,136,557 since. Schniederjans, who turned 22 right before the U.S. Open, went on the graduate from Tech, in May, and won’t be able to earn a nickel until after he turns pro following the Open Championship.
“He does everything really well,” Ollie said of Spieth. “He’s really smart, he’s an amazing competitor, he tries everything to save every shot, and he’s one of the best putters.”
Ollie would have grossed about $43,000 for finishing in a tie for 42nd place at the U.S. Open if he were not still an amateur. He’ll start cashing in a few weeks from now, but if he were already a pro he might not have been at Chambers Bay nor be planning for St. Andrews.
The Powder Springs native earned exemptions into this year’s U.S. and British Opens when he finished the 2013-14 calendar as the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world – largely by winning five tournaments during his junior year at Tech.
If he’d turned pro after graduating, Schniederjans would’ve lost those exemptions and been forced to go through qualifiers the way former Yellow Jacket Roberto Castro made the Open field.
Kuchar tied for 12th, Cameron Tringale tied for 54th and Castro fell below the cut line as the Jackets were well represented aside Puget Sound, tying for the most collegiate alumni from one institution to play on the weekend.
So where recent teammate/classmate Anders Albertson turned pro immediately after he and Schniederjans helped the U.S. defeat Europe June 12-15 in the Palmer Cup, Ollie will log in two more amateur starts and then go for greenbacks.
He’ll play in the Scottish Open July 9-12 at Gullane Golf club, and the Open at St. Andrews July 16-19, and then turn pro with hopes of playing via exemptions in three consecutive PGA Tour events – The RBC Canadian Open, the Quicken Loans National and the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
If all the plans come together, Schniederjans will have himself one heck of a five-week road trip and he’s all the more ready after his first U.S. Open experience. That went better than Valspar, where he missed the cut.
After an opening-round 69 during which he led the Open field with an average drive of 344 yards, Schniederjans finished 73-72-73 for a 7-over par total of 287. That tied him with former Virginia rival Denny McCarthy as second-low amateur.
“Now, the pressure is just stuff I put on myself to perform. I want to play, put up a score,” he said. “I’ve done it before now, and everything will be more comfortable, and I’ll know what to expect. I’ll gain from that just like I did in juniors golf and college golf.
“You see the way of everything, and kind of see how you’re going to contend and work yourself up. I can see myself contending even now.”
Putting separated contenders at Chambers Bay.
In three-putting from about 15 feet on the 72nd and final hole, Dustin Johnson went from missing a shot to win the U.S. Open, to blowing a chance to tie/force a playoff to settling for second place.
Several golfers grumped openly about putting surfaces, where an unusual blend of poa annua grass mixed with fescue over wicked patches on and around greens created hazards of a rare sort for pros and amateurs alike.
“I didn’t slip or get hurt [like some caddies],” Schniederjans said. “It was challenging, obviously, beautiful. It was fun. It was different than anything I’d ever played before … crazy amount of slope and undulation. Everyone had to deal with it. Some people probably had better fortune than others.”
Ollie came out on the wrong end of the “broccoli” greens on Sunday.
He averaged 325 yards per drive and hit 15 of 18 greens, but his 37 putts were nearly 4.5 more than the field average on the way to that final 73. In shooting 69 on Thursday, he took 28 putts, or nearly five fewer than the field average.
“The best player in the field won, and a lot of the best players were at the top. My putter was fine, but like I said … I don’t have to say anything,” Ollie explained. “Yeah, I missed a lot of putts.”
Schniederjans wasn’t in a mood to complain.
His plan to return to Atlanta for about 10 days before heading to Europe and to work less is different, and exciting.
After the NCAAs closed uncomfortably last month, he suggested that in moving forward he wanted to get back to playing the game for the love of it rather than viewing it as labor.
That’s working for now.
“My ball striking is better than ever. I was just myself, whatever that is. I will work way less harder than I have … way more chilling. I’ll go to the pool,” Schniederjans said. “I know what I’m doing with my ball-striking and my swing. It’s been exactly the same ever since the first round of the Palmer Cup.”
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