MAMARONECK – Mike Gilmore noticed the difference a couple of holes into the final round.
The level of tolerance at Winged Foot had changed overnight.
Gilmore was out early. He was called into action when Danny Lee withdrew on Saturday and got another taste of the U.S. Open playing as a marker with Abraham Ancer.
“They’re going to encounter a difficult golf course today,” the Winged Foot head pro said. “The wind is really kicking up and the course is really firm. The greens are firm and are getting that yellow sheen that we got accustomed to seeing when we were kids.”
Gilmore was confident the putting surfaces would repel most approaches from the rough.
“I don’t think these greens will be as receptive to many shots from the rough,” the 55-year-old added. “Not like the past three days. You can get some good lies in the rough, but I don’t think the greens will hold. They’re so firm right now. I mean, the ball is bouncing and maybe they get lucky, but it’s going to be a hell of a test.”
There was no hesitation when the USGA reached out to Gilmore on Saturday to jump in.
“It was amazing,” he said. “It’s been a dream week to begin with, hosting the U.S. Open at the greatest place in the world, and then getting to play my home course and seeing what the greatest players in the world are going to encounter, it cannot get any better than that.”
Gilmore has been inside the ropes in the past. He’s twice played in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. He’s also been a contestant at the U.S. Senior Open.
“I used to be able to play when I was young,” said Gilmore, who didn’t keep an official score. “I had a lot of pars. I didn’t have any birdies. The putting was the most difficult thing for me today. These greens look scary to me. It was a great day. I just didn’t want to get in Abraham’s way and we did OK.”
Gilmore did have an experienced caddie.
“I had Billy Harmon with me,” he said of the respected teaching professional, who grew up at Winged Foot and won a club championship here at the age of 16. “He came from California to be with us this week and that was a dream having me out there. He probably saved me 10 shots.”