Nick Westby met Harrogate’s John Parry before he flew out to the States for his first tilt at a major in the US Open after becoming a surprise qualifier for the event at Walton Heath.
For a man whose first major championship is contested at a notoriously difficult US Open, John Parry is refreshingly brash.
“It’s a course that plays to my strengths,” says the 26-year-old with the exuberance of youth and the obliviousness of inexperience.
“I drive it pretty straight, I’m hitting it well and it’s not the longest course either, so you don’t have to smash it round.
“There’s no real pressure on me, it’s not like I’m expecting to win it.
“So the aim is to make the weekend and I think I’ve got a pretty good chance of doing that.”
For all the confidence, though, Parry adds a caveat.
“But I say that now,” he smiles. “I might be saying differently after that first round on Thursday.”
Parry is laid back in his approach to pretty much anything, but not naive enough to think the next four days – hopefully – will be the hardest of his golfing life.
The United States Golf Association prides itself in laying on the toughest challenge the world’s top players face in the season’s four majors.
Slick greens like marble tops and treacherous rough that penalises any shot not hit out of the middle of the club usually ensures that any man under par after 72 holes has earned the right to stand over the winning putt.
Parry headed to Merion, in Pennsylvania, on Saturday to begin acclimatising himself to the course.
He is in the second group of starters from the first hole today, playing alongside Japan’s Yui Ueda and Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg.
“On Sunday, I just walked it with a wedge and a putter to try and get a feel for where to miss and where to hit, where’s good and bad etcetera,” he says.
“The last few days are all about getting a couple of rounds under your belt and learning the course as well as you can. Trying to get a feel for the course.
“It’s all about keeping it in play at a US Open. I’ve been chatting to a couple of lads who have been at US Opens before.
“They’ve said that they’ve played the course Monday to Wednesday and thought this is not as bad as everyone makes out.
“Then they’ve got out on the course for the tournament on the Thursday and it’s completely different.
“The USGA will have watered the greens and made the course as hard as possible.”
The statistics at least support Parry’s confidence in his ability.
His driving accuracy is in the top 25 per cent of players on the European Tour, and he sits just behind Lee Westwood – a player known for his ball striking – in that particular area.
Parry’s results have also improved after a slow start to his second spell among the continent’s elite.
After winning qualifying school last November – another of golf’s most exacting challenges – Parry has yet to set the Tour alight as he did for a brief spell three years ago when he won in Paris and finished third in one of the circuit’s premier events.
He is currently outside the top 110 who retain their playing rights for next season but enjoyed his best result of the season, 14th, in Madeira last month.
That precipitated his achievement in qualifying for the US Open at Walton Heath.
He shot a morning round of 66 and then a 75 in the afternoon, before returning from Gatwick Airport where he was preparing to fly to the next tournament in Sweden thinking he had blown his chance, to seal his place at Merion in a play-off.
“My form has been a little bit better recently, but I’ve not played as consistently as I’d like,” says the former Walker Cup player.
“It’s one of those things where if you keep trusting in what you’re doing with your swing or whatever you’re working on, then you might only be one week away from the week you’re looking for that changes your season.
“I remember that in the year I won, it wasn’t all going smoothly throughout the season. There were ups and downs before, all of a sudden, it clicked.
“So if I keep trusting in what I’m doing, then I should be fine.”
Parry’s second coming on the Tour after he lost his playing rights at the end of 2011, owes much to an alliance with former pro and his now personal trainer Rob Hobkinson.
Twelve months ago, Hobkinson gave Parry a strict fitness and weights regime that was carefully developed following biomechanical, nutritional and physiological analysis.
Parry has since become a disciple of not only the gym, but also the biomechanical study of the golf swing.
As well as the sport science, the Yorkshireman knows this week’s test in the year’s second major will be as much about the top two inches as anything else.
“It looks a real mental battle as much as anything,” he says.
“Obviously you need to play well but the man who wins has to be mentally sharp.
“You’ve got to hit good shots and you’ve got to hold your nerve really well, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it really is playing.
“The memories I have from watching the US Open on telly is people just putting it off the greens, or chipping off greens.
“On most courses, while you’re always concentrating, there are easy shots. But you don’t get that at a US Open.
“The penalties are severe if you miss the target areas.
“It’s probably the toughest golf I’m ever going to play, certainly the toughest event.
“I am looking forward to the whole atmosphere of the tournament, but mainly excited about how tough it is going to be.”
First round tee-off times at US Open
Starting at hole 1 (US unless stated, all times BST):
11.45 C Kresge, R Tambellini, R Yip (Can)
11.56 John Parry (Eng), Y Ueda (Jpn), R Karlberg (Swe)
12.07 N Watney, H Mahan, P Hanson (Swe)
12.18 L Glover, P Casey (Eng), B Haas
12.29 A Baddeley (Aus), R Sabbatini (Rsa), D Lingmerth (Swe)
12.40 M Siem (Ger), M Laird (Sco), G Coetzee (Rsa)
12.51 J Kelly, C Hoffman, J Huh
13.02 H Stenson (Swe), R Moore, R Garrigus
13.13 T Potter Jr, S Khan (Eng), R Palmer
13.24 M Kim, S Stefani, N Thompson
13.35 D La Belle II, A Svoboda, C Doak (Sco)
13.46 M Weibring, R Hutchison, K Sutherland
13.57 J Hahn, R Nelson, C Mcelyea
17.30 Jm Olazabal (Spa), D Toms, D Clarke (NIrl)
17.41 P Lawrie (Sco), G Ogilvy (Aus), A Cabrera (Arg)
17.52 L Donald (Eng), M Kaymer (Ger), L Westwood (Eng)
18.03 G McDowell (NIrl), J Furyk, Z Johnson
18.14 T Woods, R McIlroy (NIrl), A Scott (Aus)
18.25 T Jaidee (Tha), G Fdez-Castano (Spa), T Olesen (Den)
18.36 W Simpson, Sn Fox, E Els (Rsa)
18.47 J Ogilvie, K Stanley, L Guthrie
18.58 J Teater, E Pepperell (Eng), Y Tsukada (Jpn)
19.09 JG Hwang (Kor), E Loar, M Orum Madsen (Den)
19.20 M Bettencourt, R Knox (Sco), M Homa
19.31 A Hadwin (Can), J Nieporte, J Herman
19.42 J Smith, G Murray, B Brown
Starting at hole 11:
12.00 D Johnson, N Colsaerts (Bel), B Watson
12.11 P Mickelson, K Bradley, S Stricker
12.22 B Snedeker, J Rose (Eng), M Kuchar
12.33 L Oosthuizen (Rsa), C Schwartzel (Rsa), T Clark (Rsa)
12.44 P Harrington (Irl), S Cink, S Garcia (Spa)
12.55 B Weekley, J Dufner, I Poulter (Eng)
13.06 J Day (Aus), R Fowler, M Manassero (Ita)
13.17 H Fujita (Jpn), F Jacobson (Swe), YE Yang (Kor)
13.28 R Karlsson (Swe), S Stallings, Jn Peterson
13.39 JD Blake, M Campbell (Nzl), B Jobe
13.50 M Weir (Can), J Van Zyl (Rsa), D Hearn (Can)
14.01 K Phelan, H Varner III, W Collins
14.12 G Sisk, C Pan (Chn), M Hughes (Can)
17.45 B Stuard, D Howell (Eng), J Hicks
17.56 B Steele, E Goya (Arg), P Hedblom (Swe)
18.07 M Fraser (Aus), M Leishman (Aus), J Senden (Aus)
18.18 S Langley, C Williams (Rsa), M Hoffmann
18.29 C Wittenberg, M Thompson, Michael Weaver
18.40 C Pettersson (Swe), K J Choi (Kor), F Molinari (Ita)
18.51 J Donaldson (Wal), K Chappell, S Piercy
19.02 B Van Pelt, DA Points, K Streelman
19.13 S Bae (Kor), R Henley, B Grace (Rsa)
19.24 J Spieth, B Horschel, H Matsuyama (Jpn)
19.35 S Alker (Nzl), A Presnell (Aus), M Goggin (Aus)
19.46 M Harmon, B Kim (Kor), G Hall
19.57 B Crick, R Sullivan, Z Fischer