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Len Ziehm On Golf

Spectator’s death latest in events that mar this U.S. Open

ERIN, Wis. — Away from the play on the course it’s been one thing after another for the U.S. Golf Association to deal with at this 117th U.S. Open.

On Thursday it was a blimp crash a half-mile from the course. On Friday the USGA announced that E.Coli bacteria had been detected in a Hydration Station on the No. 12 hole and announced that bottled water would be delivered to all four such stations as a precautionary measure.

During Friday’s second round came an even worse development – the death of a 94-year old man from nearby Wauwatosa who had been watching the action in the grandstand near the No. 6 green on his first visit to this U.S. Open.

Rescue personnel and Washington County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the grandstand and arrived three minutes after being called. They reported the man to be pulseless and not breathing. The unidentified subject was transferred to an on-site ambulance where he was pronounced deceased. No foul play is suspected and the death appears to be of natural causes, according the medical personnel.

GO FIGURE: Defending champion Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day – the top three players in the Official World Golf Rankings – all failed to survive the 36-hole cut on Friday.

Johnson and McIlroy are still shaking off injuries and Day, who was basically out of it after a first-round 79, was the most surprised.

“It’s been the best preparation going into a major in my career,’’ he said. “I did the work, looked at the golf course, made sure that I could actually play and visualize the golf course. And, I felt the most calm I have in a major in a long time. Unfortunately this just didn’t pan out.’’

NOT TO BE IGNORED: Canadian Adam Hadwin, who won the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship in March, matched a longstanding U.S. Open record when he strung six birdies in Thursday’s first round. He had seven on the day, all after approach shots to within 15 feet.

The Open had two previous six-birdie streaks, both at Pebble Beach. George Burns did it in 1982 and Andy Dillard in 1992.

Hadwin, who also strung six in a row at the PGA Tour’s CareerBuilder Challenge, cooled off on Friday but still was safely under the Open cut line at 2-under to qualify for weekend play.

NO REGRETS: Roberto Diaz, the Mexico golfer who got into the starting field after Phil Mickelson’s late withdrawal, saw his hopes of making the 36-hole cut disappear when he opened the second round with a 40.

Diaz was just happy to have a chance to play in his first U.S. Open, though he was in constant limbo in the days leading up to it as Mickelson’s participation loomed as a possibility.

“I thought Phil was going to come. I always did,’’ said Diaz. “I thought he was going to somehow pull it off, but I didn’t want to put my hopes up and then see my hopes go down. I prepared the whole week to play, but I was prepared to not play.’’

ANOTHER WD: Mickelson wasn’t the only notable withdrawal. England’s Danny Willett, the 2016 Masters champion, pulled out, too. He complained of a sore back after shooting 81 on Thursday.

MIXED BAG: Stephan Jaeger, who won the Web.com Tour’s Rust-Oleum Championship at Ivanhoe Club last Sunday, continued his solid play. The German’s 71-73 start qualified him for the weekend rounds at the U.S. Open for the first time.

Andy Pope, the only player with a Chicago residency connection in the 156-man field, shot 77-75 and missed the cut, marring his third straight appearance at the U.S. Open.