Pebble Beach, Calif. - At age 29, Brandon de Jonge might be a late bloomer, but he's the early bird special at Pebble Beach. On the wings of an eagle at No. 14, de Jonge burst into a share of the lead at the U.S. Open on Thursday afternoon.
But as he arrived to begin his defense on Friday morning of that co-op lead - shared which he has with Shaun Micheel and Paul Casey - the last thing in the world he was thinking about was what happened yesterday.
"It's obviously very exciting [to have a share of the lead]," said de Jonge, a native of Zimbabwe. "But I think I need to do a good job of putting the round behind me and coming out and starting fresh, hopefully with more of the same."
De Jonge (pronounced dee-Yong) is not new to U.S. territory. He played his college golf at Virginia Tech and now resides in Matthews, N.C. He spent several seasons on the Nationwide Tour before cracking the PGA Tour out of the qualifying tournament in 2007.
He also has played in three AT&T National Pro-Ams at Pebble Beach. That said, no one might have predicted he would be in this position. He missed the cut at the AT&T earlier this season and at that point, he had just four top-10s in two seasons. He had yet to register a top-five finish in that span.
But he tied for ninth at the Honda Classic in early March, then tied for third at the Puerto Rico Open the following week. In May, he finished fourth at the Quail Hollow Championship. And on Thursday, he led the field through nine holes at three under par.
"You have to try to stay patient," said de Jonge, who lost a stroke to par on his second nine. "You could hit a good putt that didn't go in and hope some of your bad ones do. It evens out."
De Jonge hit 9 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens to manage four bogeys with four birdies. Then he tossed in the eagle-3 at No. 14 - one of only two during the first round - when he holed his approach from the fairway.
But as he insisted, that was then and this is now. He will tee off much earlier in the day on Friday, and may find a much different golf course.
"Pretty excited," he said. "But I realize that it's very early. I'm trying not to get too far ahead of myself."
Even a late bloomer knows the difference: Ahead of the field is good. Ahead of yourself is bad.
USGA news services.