BROOKLINE, Mass.; – Matthew NeSmith stares out at the scoreboard about 50 yards ahead on the par-3 16th. They take pictures of these kinds of scenes. The skies are gray. The trees are blowing. He looks deep, deep, deep in his thoughts. It’s his album cover.
Is he thinking of where he was playing? It’s US Open Saturday.
That’s heavy stuff. He’s played in only one of these before this week.
Or is he thinking of where he is, period? At The – cap the ‘T’ there, please – Country Club. That’s historic stuff.
Of course, there was the fun fact that at this US Open, at The Country Club, on that leaderboard, he was right there, in the mix.
“I’m just kind of blank at the leaderboard,” he said Saturday, as he and a reporter walked over to the range here. “I’m so ADD I get lost a little bit.
“But no, it’s very cool walking the fairways, playing with a good friend of mine, one; and two, late on a Saturday of a US Open, with the No. 1-ranked player in the world where there’s obviously some hype around and watching him make an eagle on 8 and watching everybody go crazy, it was cool. ”
The very top of the leaderboard that NeSmith’s was pointed in the direction of isn’t short of star power. There’s Will Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick at the top; they were doing battle just a month ago at the last major championship, the PGA. There’s Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy and Sam Burns; they’re as good as they get. Then there’s Mr. NeSmith, a 28-year-old from South Carolina who’s won once, on the Korn Ferry Tour. He’s five back, after a slightly rocky four-over 74 in the third round.
And why should you care about the world 166th-ranked player? We’ve brought you this far, so this better be a helluva reason.
Because his swing thought is as refreshing as it is simple as it is blunt. Sunday, you could do worse than the guy we can maybe learn a little from.
He’s happy to be there, but it’s so wonderfully more than that.
“My mantra, it’s been, it’s OK to suck,” NeSmith said. “I mean, if I’m going to struggle, that’s totally fine. I’m going to be OK, my wife’s going to love me, I’m still going to have dinner with my parents, or have a Father’s Day tomorrow. It’s going to be fine.
“Like it’s not enjoyable, it’s not fun at golf, but it’s what makes the territory so you enjoy it and don’t make it all about golf.”
And so it went on Saturday, enjoyably. On 10 tee, NeSmith and Scheffler, his playing partner and another relatively carefree soul, laughed. Walking up 14, they were laughing. From 15, NeSmith was laughing… with a rules official? There was some confusion over which way he should drop from a sprinkler, and, well, that was a hoot.
From 18, with a Country Club course clobbering everyone, it was more of the same. While you don’t know what they were talking about – it was important to know why NeSmith was laughing. In short, he said golf was everything, and he was getting nothing. So he balanced that out.
“Just got in my own way,” NeSmith said back in March at the Valspar Championship .. “I’ve done, I’ve done everything right. My game’s been great. I’ve really worked on the driver. I’ve really worked on putting it better. I’ve really worked on chipping it better. And I’ve gotten better in all those areas, but I’ve played any better.
“So at some point in time, that falls on me and that falls on how I act and how I think and how I want to feel. And so I’m getting in my own way. And if it affects the way I play in a bad way, that’s fine, but I’m done with the anxiety. I’m done with trying to, trying so hard.
“And it’s been working out great the last two days, but it can’t work out this weekend. It may work out awesome. I don’t know. But I’m going to keep going that way. ”
And that he has.
Even on US Open Sunday?
At The Country Club?
Five shots out of the lead?
Even on US Open Sunday at The Country Club while sitting five shots out of the lead.
“Lot of the same stuff,” he said Saturday night before hitting a few balls on the range. “Just going out there, I know I can be successful out here, but with the same mindset. I enjoyed today. Even though I didn’t play my best golf, I enjoyed today. I grinded my tail off and tried as hard as I could.
“But I had a good time.”
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