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Though the big story of the 2011 US Open and in all of sports right now is Rory McIlroy, a couple loose local storylines tied themselves up late Sunday. Matt Kuchar, who entered the final round ranked in the top five with a chance to contend for second place, struggled on his back nine and wound up in a tie for 14th place with 2010 winner Graeme McDowell and others.
Georgia Bulldogs amateur Russell Henley finished four strokes better than he did in 2010, but still came up three shy of low amateur Patrick Cantlay. The UCLA Bruins freshman has been on a rampage, winning the Nicklaus Award and Palmer Cup before nearly cracking the top 20 at Congressional.
Bubba Watson and Christo Greyling closed out the tournament with disappointing Sundays, while Stewart Cink wasn't able to make the cut despite a solid opening round.
Former Georgia Bulldogs Bubba Watson and Christo Greyling are into the clubhouse already at the 2011 US Open, both among those holding down the lower end of the Congressional leaderboard. Watson finished 9-over for the tournament after posting a double bogey on hole No. 6 to go 2-over for the final round, while Greyling post back-to-back double bogeys on his back nine to conclude at 13-over.
Matt Kuchar will be the last Georgian to begin his Sunday round, scheduled to tee off any second now.
Russell Henley has been shaky throughout his front nine, alternating birdies and bogeys on his way to a 1-over round so far. He's still only a stroke behind low amateur Patrick Cantlay and seven strokes better than his final 2010 performance to this point.
Lost among big days by Jason Day, Fredrik Jacobson and Lee Westwood -- and, of course, Rory McIlroy -- has been Matt Kuchar's quietly successful 2011 US Open. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets veteran ranks tied for sixth after a 2-under day, putting his score for the tournament at 4-under with one round left.
Georgia Bulldogs amateur Russell Henley, sadly jinxed by our previous update on his score, finished the day tied for 21st at even par for the event, a stroke behind Patrick Cantlay of the UCLA Bruins. In 2010, Henley finished 16th to split low amateur honors with Illinois' Scott Langley.
Georgia Bulldogs amateur Russell Henley has had a fantastic 2011 US Open, but his Saturday may end up being something special. Through his front nine he's 4-under on the day, moving him to 4-under overall and putting him into a tie for third place with Y.E. Yang and behind Fredrik Jacobson and leader Rory McIlroy.
Those are all pros, by the way. The nearest amateurs are Patrick Cantlay, tied for 16th, and Brad Benjamin, tied for 71st.
Peach State golf's amateur heritage is among the sport's best, with Bobby Jones himself an Atlanta native and resident. No amateur has won a PGA Tour tournament since Phil Mickelson in 1991 -- McIlroy's dynamite tournament has all but ensured Henley won't achieve that this weekend, but it shouldn't be ruled out for the near future.
Henley was just the second amateur to ever win a Nationwide Series event, however, taking Athens, Georgia's 2011 Stadion Classic just last month. He turned down the $99,000 prize in order to remain an amateur, finishing up his classes at UGA shortly after. He's said he wants to keep competing in amateur tournaments before eventually turning pro, particularly the upcoming 2011 Walker Cup.
Round 3 of the 2011 US Open has not been kind to either of the two pros with Georgia Bulldogs ties, as both Bubba Watson and Christo Greyling continued their slide into the red, going 3-over and 4-over on the day respectively. Webb Simpson was the early afternoon's biggest winner, going 5-under to join the top 10 as Rory McIlroy and Y.E. Yang get set to tee off at 3:50 pm ET.
One Dawg with a chance to have a better day: Russell Henley, who's just finished his first hole to remain at 1-under and currently tied with Patrick Cantlay as the leading amateur.
Matt Kuchar is scheduled to tee off at 3:20 pm ET, among the final pairings, and with a strong weekend could wind up as high as second behind McIlroy. Yes, I feel just fine assuming a McIlroy victory.
Matt Kuchar has been the Peach State's star of the 2011 US Open through two rounds, going 2-under overall to rank in a tie for third behind Rory McIlroy and Y.E. Yang on the leaderboard. Of course, this is McIlroy's world, but at least Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets fans will have a top player to root for while watching to see if the leader can lay waste to the record book.
Elsewhere, the wheels came off for Stewart Cink. Shooting five bogeys and a double bogey, Cink tumbled all the way to 4-over with three holes remaining, putting him right above the projected cut line. Bubba Watson has also had a bad day, going 3-over after becoming clearly frustrated during a hole No. 12 double bogey. With five holes left, he's also in danger of missing the cut.
In better news from Congressional for local players, Russell Henley shot 2-under to make even par with a hole remaining, putting him in a tie for 14th place and making him the second-place amateur behind Patrick Cantlay. And he's been doing it while wearing a Georgia Bulldogs polo and cap.
Ryan Palmer took the early leaderboard top spot in Round 1 of the 2011 U.S. Open, but former Georgia Bulldogs star caught fire on his back nine. Watson knocked down four straight birdies to overcome a hole No. 17 bunker-induced bogey and move into a tie for with Y.E. Yang and Palmer for first place at 3-under-par.
But things got ugly toward the end, unlike his glorious pants. On hole No. 7, his 16th hole of the day, Watson put himself in a difficult position and had a hard time recovering, but was able to escape with a bogey. He then three-putted his 17th hole to go 1-under. On his final hole, he again wound up on the wrong end of the dance floor, again requiring three putts to reach the cup. He ended up even, placing him second among all players with Georgia ties.
Stewart Cink is into the clubhouse at 1-under, good enough for a fourth-place tie so far. Fellow Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets alum Matt Kuchar is close behind, also finishing at 1-over after a rocky day that included a double bogey. UGA alum Christo Greyling shows up at 1-over, with Russell Henley at 2-over.
The Congressional tournament's field is slim on Georgians, but based on the opening round I think it's reasonable to hope for at least one top-10 finisher among local players. A win would be the first victory in a major by any of the three since Cink's 2009 British Open victory -- neither Watson nor Kuchar has yet won a major PGA Tour tournament.