Redwood City Daily News: Walking Tiger's Beat

June 12, 2008

STANFORD, Calif. - Jordan Cox may be an amateur, but this is an amateur with some serious pull. As if playing in the U.S. Open wouldn't already be unforgettable enough, the Stanford sophomore landed a dream pairing for Monday's practice round at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

Joining Cox at 6:50 a.m. on the South Course's first tee were Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson.

'It was amazing,' Cox said. 'I couldn't possibly be having more fun down here.'

Cox, fresh off Stanford's NCAA runner-up finish, had met Woods during a team function in Florida that included dinner at Woods' home. The Cardinal connection paid bigger dividends as Woods helped the school's latest golfing prodigy usher in the Open week with practice rounds on Monday and again on Tuesday.

After overcoming the initial shock of a gallery that swelled to see Woods even before breakfast on the Monday of championship week, Cox, 20, settled down and enjoyed the banter among the players that seldom touched on golf.

Asked to assess Woods' progress as he prepares for his first tournament since undergoing arthroscopic surgery days after the Masters, Cox said, 'I think it would be an understatement to say he was on point.

'He missed, like, one shot all nine holes (on Monday). It was fun to watch. His ball control ... he hit it really, really well.'

And Watson, the Tour's affable long-hitter?

'He's really entertaining. He bombs it, and the crowd loves him,' Cox said. 'On top of that, they're both great guys.'

So Jordan, you're known for your length off the tee, but how did you match up against the big boys?

'I was just a little bit behind Tiger,' he said, 'and maybe 20 (yards) behind Watson.'

Cox, who attended Serra High in San Mateo, qualified for the Open on his fifth attempt. In a field of 86 golfers chasing seven bids in a sectional qualifier at Daly City's Lake Merced Golf Club, he was one of two amateurs to advance on June 2.

A week later, he could only shake his head in amazement as he played back-to-back days alongside the world's top-ranked player.

A day before his burgeoning golf game takes another leap forward when he tees off Thursday in his first major, Cox has set the bar high. 'I want to make the cut,' said Cox, one of 10 amateurs in the 156-player field.

'Who knows?' he quickly added. 'It's a great opportunity and beyond that, it's a great life experience. Hopefully, I play well.'

Another Serra High alum in the field also enjoyed a practice round with a former U.S. Open champion on Monday. Garrett Chaussard, 24, who played on the Gateway Tour last spring, thoroughly enjoyed his afternoon pairing with Jim Furyk.

'It was very cool. It was very unexpected. He was very cordial, definitely made me feel comfortable out there,' said Chaussard, adding that he was impressed with how Furyk handled the crush of the crowds. 'It just got me used to what it may be like on Thursday. The course is hard enough. I can't let any of that stuff distract me.'

Like Cox, Chaussard, a University of Illinois alum who played on the Canadian Tour in 2006, is making his first appearance at a PGA Tour event.

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