Beau Hossler was grateful for the invitation Tiger Woods extended to him for this week’s AT&T National. But the 17-year-old amateur who took the U.S. Open by storm said the host of this week’s tourney was just like any other opponent once he and the other 119 golfers take the field on Thursday.
“I’ll be sure to thank him when I see him out there,” Hossler told reporters Tuesday about Woods, who mentioned during his press conference that he had a hand in getting the high schooler a pass to the tourney he hosts at Congressional Country Club. “He's obviously a huge reason I'm out here, and I'm really appreciative of that.”
Woods’ graciousness will only get him so far, however, as the young man who briefly held the lead during the recent major championship at Olympic Club believes he can beat anyone once he sticks a tee in the turf.
“I'm not going to go out there and look at who's hitting next to me, whether it's Tiger Woods, or Nick Watney, or D.A. Points,” Hossler said. “I've got to go out there and make sure I'm focused and make sure I'm prepared. Pressure I don't think is a huge factor for me other than what I put on myself.”
The kid has chutzpah, that’s for sure. He entered the Open with a lofty but attainable goal of shooting the lowest score among the amateurs, but ratcheted up his expectations after posting an even-par 70 in the third round. Indeed, the Santa Margarita (Calif.) High junior boasted that winning the tourney was well within his reach.
As it turned out, Hossler stumbled down the stretch to a final-round 76 and ended up losing low am honors to Jordan Spieth, the Texas Longhorn freshman who’s also in this week’s field and who will welcome Hossler to his college golf team in two years. No matter, Hossler suggested, as he shrugged off his disappointing finish to an otherwise stellar week in San Francisco; what he learned at Olympic Club would serve him well going forward.
“It's probably the confidence and belief in myself to go out there and compete against the best players in the world,” he said about his Open experience. “Obviously I know I'm not quite to their level yet, but ... to know I'm able to be out there at least and to compete, that's a huge confidence booster for me.”
Hossler’s still waiting for his first summons to the talk-show circuit, and the clerk selling him socks at Macy’s recently did not recognize him (“I had to show them my ID”), but there’s no doubt his life has changed since he climbed the Open leaderboard a week and a half ago.
“It's pretty cool, though, because a lot of people know who I am now, being stopped in airports and everything, taking pictures,” he said. “You wouldn't really expect the guy at Jack in the Box to recognize me, but they kind of do now.”
And while such acknowledgement had yet to earn him any free burgers (“I wish,” said Hossler), his Open performance instilled in him the brashness to believe he could lift his first PGA Tour trophy come Sunday night.
“I respect the games of every player out here. They're obviously the best players in the world,” Hossler said. “But I feel like I can go out there and compete. ... Obviously I'm going to have to play my best golf..., but I think I can go out there and if I prepare well, which I feel like I have, gotten some rest, if I go out there and play my game, I think I can get myself into contention.”
Hossler, by the way, does not expect to follow Woods’ or new pro Patrick Cantlay’s footsteps and leave college early for the professional ranks, even if Woods believed Cantlay did the right thing in turning pro early.
“College is going to be the best time of my life,” Hossler predicted. “I'm planning on spending four years there, graduating, and I can't wait to do it. I love all the guys on the team at Texas. I love the coaches, everything about the school, the area. It's just going to be a blast.
“Golf is not going anywhere,” Hossler said. “I cannot wait to spend those four years in Austin, that's for sure.”