Birthday boy Levin ready for Olympic

June, 15, 2012
06/15/12
12:53
PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- Shortly before his 8:50 a.m. PT tee time on Friday, I had a chance to catch up with Spencer Levin, who shot a 4-over 74 on Thursday. Levin's caddie is Mike "Hicksey" Hicks, who was on the late Payne Stewart's bag here in 1998 when the golfer finished second behind Lee Janzen.

Like Janzen, Levin is a plodder, a student of every grain of the golf course. He is a good student of Olympic, where he has played probably 20 times over the years growing up in the Sacramento area.

It's his 28th birthday, and he was mostly in a good mood until I asked him about holes 1 through 6.

"Man, are they hard," said Levin, who bogeyed four of the six on Thursday. "It never lets up."

He's grateful to be starting his second round on the 9th hole. However, he did concede that holes 2 and 4 offer somewhat of a reprieve if you hit the fairway off the tee.

I asked him about the birdie holes. There have to be some birdie holes on the course. He told me that 10, 11, 14, 15, 17 and 18 were good birdie chances. And the hard holes on the back were 12, 13 and 16 -- the Goliath of par-5s.

"At 16 you have to hit the fairway or it's a bogey," he said.

Though the long par-4 1st hole ranked as the hardest on Thursday, Levin said the 498-yard 3rd is really the most difficult hole on the course.

He stood at arm's length in front of me and said that's the space that you have to land your drive to stay in the fairway.

"It's brutal," he said.

Levin was getting tired just talking to me. He was searching for a cigarette, maybe. It was time to head to the tee.

And he was led away by Hicksey to what he hoped would be a happy birthday. As we exchanged pleasantries, I felt like I was sending him off to war. And he was ready but not sure what he was about to face in battle.

Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at evans.espn@gmail.com.

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