Gregarious Emiliano Grillo a breath of fresh air at Baltusrol

Argentina's Emiliano Grillo at Baltusrol yesterday. Picture: AP

Bless his heart, but it took a young man from Argentina to remind those of us here in America that our stubbornness needs to be rectified.

After posting a four-under 66 in the opening round of the 98th PGA Championship yesterday at Baltusrol Golf Club, Emiliano Grillo was asked about this busy stretch he and his fellow world-class golfers have been involved in — the US Open followed by the British Open, now the PGA Championship...

At which time, Grillo interrupted. “The Open,” he said.

There was some laughter and a big smile from Grillo, but the point was duly noted by all in attendance. It’s “The Open Championship” and not “The British Open”, no matter how many ways we in the US try to explain our ignorance.

We have a trouble with that over here, but as much as it ruffles the lads in the R&A, miscalling the sport’s oldest and richest tournament as we so often do is just one of our faults. We’re also adept at spending copious amounts of time focused on a select group of PGA Tour stars, not spreading our interests.

Which brings us back to Grillo, 23, who plays with a flair and a passion. His rookie season on the PGA Tour began with pure brilliance — a win. That he’s yet to follow it up with a top-10 is a bit surprising, but noteworthy is how Grillo has made the cut in each of the first three majors this year.

It underscores an understanding about how to manage your emotions during the most intense competitions. But Grillo is saturated in maturity and while the American media hasn’t yet paid sufficient attention to him, he continues to make significant progress in this most fickle of sports careers.

Example: Grillo was not caught up in the unison of screams that players issued when changes were made to the schedule to accommodate the Olympics.

Instead, playing three majors in a seven-week stretch and the British — make that The Open — and the PGA Championship within three weeks didn’t bother Grillo at all.

“I’d rather it be (like this), because if you play good the week before, you can carry that onto the next week,” said Grillo. “That’s what I’ve been doing.” Indeed, he has.

Finishing joint 14th at the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational, Grillo teed up at Royal Troon two weeks later, finishing with a share of 12th, boosted by a closing one-under 70.

“I’m carrying that into this week,” said Grillo.

Grillo, who played years of junior golf alongside Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, and Smiley Kaufman and is thus acclimated to life here in the US, is going to be carrying something far more important soon enough. In two weeks, Grillo will accompany fellow Argentines into the Olympic arena as golf returns to the this global sports festival for the first time since 1904.

For all the time golf writers have spent writing about the Olympic withdrawals — from Jason Day to Jordan Spieth to Dustin Johnson to Rory McIlroy to a host of others — committed Olympians like Grillo are overlooked.

“It’s very important to me, very special,” said Grillo. “I will take next week off and then go to Rio (de Janeiro).” Where Grillo delivers a breath of fresh air is in his acceptance of what this means for golf.

Unlike all the PR types working for all the governing bodies who chant about “grow the game, grow the game”, Grillo accepts that the sport has to prove itself. If he were to win a medal, Grillo said it wouldn’t mean as much to his countryman as if it were “won by a football or basketball player”.

He remembers Argentina’s joy when Angel Cabrera won the US Open in 2007 and the Masters in 2009 and concedes “that a gold medal wouldn’t match that, not yet anyway”.

Young that he is, Grillo is wise beyond his years. Having stuck around for four days at Augusta, four days at Oakmont, four days at Troon, and sitting just one off the lead here at Baltusrol, he says: “I’ve got a great appreciation for all of this. These are our best championships. These are the most important.”

But that’s not to say Grillo isn’t willing to help Olympic golf gain some history and that this week’s PGA Championship wouldn’t build momentum in that direction.


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