After his collapse on Open Sunday last year, Chen missed the cut in his next three tournaments. What befell him at that 5th hole is the sort of golfing nightmare that can linger. Chen, with a four-stroke lead, had hit his second shot into the tall rough short of the green, and his next shot landed in the rough just in front of the green. His fourth shot was a sand wedge, which hit behind the ball. On the follow-through the ball was struck a second time by the face of the club, and squirted off to the left. Two strokes in one. Shaken, Chen chipped past the pin and two-putted for the eight. He bogeyed the next three holes. "It upset me a lot," he said later. "It stayed on my mind."
Of his Open experience, T.C. says, "For about a month it bothered me really every day. I cannot forget it. But now I'm fine. Everything is gone. This is a new year." As evidence of such, Chen played splendidly at the Masters, leading the tournament at midround Friday before fading, eventually finishing 23rd.
"What bothered T.C. at Oakland Hills was not so much that it was the Open as that it was Sunday afternoon," says Lealos. "He lost a little confidence. I think all he needs is one week when he's close, and he plays well on Sunday. He doesn't have to win, just play well."
"Every player has the pressure," says Chen. "It depends on how you handle it. For me it is still not too good when I have pressure. But the Open last year was good experience for me for the next time it is the same."
Suddenly next time is this week at Shinnecock Hills. Chen can rest assured, though, that however else his second U.S. Open may turn out, at least it won't be the same. Double eagles, double hits, quadruple bogeys and lightning rarely strike in the same place twice.