When standing under the television tower on the 12th hole at The Olympic Club, one is able to see the 12th green and fairways, as well as the entire 13th hole. Entire is overstating it a bit: A large swale and bunker obscure part of the green from view. But it's close enough.
It was by chance that I saw my first ace. In an effort to track the trajectory of Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk's shot, I'd walked ahead of the group and stopped behind the 12th green to watch John Peterson and David Toms finish up and move on. Considering where the pin was, I never expected what happened next.
A bit bored waiting for Woods and Furyk, I glanced over to 13 to watch Toms tee off. His shot brought smatterings of applause, a sound that's more courtesy than anything else.
Peterson was up next, and his round had been nothing to write home about until he hit the 13th tee. Four bogeys on the first 11 holes of the day had him at 4-over, moving backwards on the leaderboard in a hurry.
Like Peterson, I didn't actually see what happened next. The shot was easy to follow in the air, but once the ball landed it disappeared behind the bunker. It was the sound gave it away. The gallery began to roar, reaching a crescendo as the massive group of fans along the rope line and in the grandstands went nuts.
Still, nobody back on the tee box knew if it was a close shot or something more. Peterson just kind of stood there emotionless for a second, knowing he hit a good shot but unsure where, exactly, it was.
It was in the hole. His shot had landed in just the right spot, funneling back to the hole for a one on the card. When he got the signal, Peterson let it all out, tossing his club, smiling from ear-to-ear and, eventually, giving his caddie a flying chest bump.
The reaction on the tee box also triggered a chain reaction as fans on the far side of the 12th green roared in approval, realizing what just happened. The massive crowds had all gathered to get ahead of Woods and Furyk, only to see a young man plodding through his round card an ace.
Peterson's smile and celebration continued all the way up to the green, with the roar continuing as fans acknowledged his achievement. One even sprinted out onto the course to high five him -- a sign of the party-like atmosphere that appeared out of thin air.
He looked down, smiled one more time and reached into the cup to retrieve his tee shot -- the first ace at the 2012 U.S. Open. Even better for Peterson: The hole-in-one stopped his skid, leading to a respectable round of 72. He's 3-over for the tournament and four shots off the pace.
No matter what happens on Sunday, Peterson has that ace to look back on. And the flying chest bump. He might want to work on that.