Huge Names Advance Fail at Sectional Qualifying

By Associated PressJune 5, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenUPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio -- Anthony Kim must have felt like he won a major the way he qualified for his first one.
In an 11-man playoff for one spot in the U.S. Open on Monday, Kim holed a bunker shot on the first extra hole simply to stay in the game, then earned a ticket to Oakmont with a par on the third extra hole of a 36-hole qualifier loaded with PGA TOUR players.
Ryan Moore and Bubba Watson, who both had chances to win the Memorial last weekend, stayed on their game to be co-medalists and lead the 24 players who qualified from Scioto Country Club.
The 11-man playoff was split into two groups, and Kevin Stadler made birdie from close range in the first group. Kim was in the second group and knew he had to hole his bunker shot to stay in the playoff.
'I played it just like I was hanging out and hitting shots with my friends,' said Kim, who will turn 22 two days after the Open. 'I was real relaxed and got up there to see what I could do.'
Stadler again hit it stiff on the second extra hole, and Kim followed with a sand wedge that spun back to about a foot to match birdies, with Will MacKenzie eliminated. Kim won the playoff with a par on the 210-yard third hole when Stadler came up short, chipped to about 10 feet and missed the putt.
Stadler and McKenzie are alternates.
For Kim, it was all too familiar.
He was 13 when he won an 11-for-1 playoff to earn a spot in the match play portion of the U.S. Junior Amateur.
'The U.S. Open would be awesome to play at,' Kim said. 'I played so much this year, I was treating it like any other tournament.'
Watson, who qualified for his second Open, said he could have used some time off but couldn't wait to play at Oakmont.
'It's going to be awesome because it's a major,' Watson said. 'That's what we strive for, the majors. It's a big tournament with an elite field and to say you won the U.S. Open, it would be unbelievable.'
Other qualifiers from Scioto included Jerry Kelly, Sean O'Hair, amateur Trip Kuehne and Boo Weekley.
There were a dozen qualifiers across the United States on Monday to determine the 156-man field for the U.S. Open, to be played June 14-17 at Oakmont Country Club. Another qualifier was outside London for primarily European Tour players.
Among those who failed to get in were two-time major champion Mark O'Meara, Darren Clarke, former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, Mark Calcavecchia and Brad Faxon.
'This is it for me. I'm 50 years old,' said O'Meara, who has played in 21 U.S. Opens. 'I came here with the hopes of playing well enough to get through. But as I was out there, I realized that my time has kind of come to pass. I've tried the last three or four years and I haven't gotten through, so I've just got to go ahead and step aside. I doubt if I'll try qualifying anymore. There's no need for me to take a spot. Let some of these young kids, it's their turn now.'
The second-largest qualifier was in Memphis, Tenn., for those getting ready to play the Stanford St. Jude Classic, and most of those 16 spots went to PGA TOUR players. Darron Stiles was the medalist after rounds of 69-62 at Colonial Country Club, two shots ahead of Kirk Triplett and Brandt Snedeker, who played college golf at Vanderbilt.
Olin Browne needed a rally for the second time in three years. Browne shot 59 in the Maryland qualifier two years ago after nearly withdrawing after 18 holes. This time, he opened with a 72 and followed with a 64 to get in by two shots.
Also getting in from the Memphis site were former PGA champion Steve Elkington and Paul Goydos, who won the Sony Open earlier this year for his first PGA TOUR victory in 11 years. Among those who failed to advance was John Daly, who shot 73 and withdrew.
Justin Leonard, the 1997 British Open champion, Hunter Mahan and Ryan Palmer earned the three spots available in the qualifying at the Northwood Club, near Dallas.
PGA TOUR regular Kevin Sutherland was the medalist at Bear Creek Club in Murietta, Calif., and his morning round of 7-under 65 featured a hole-in-one with a 6-iron on the 186-yard 8th hole. Richard Lee, a 16-year-old amateur from Chandler, Ariz., and Andrew Buckle finished at 140, three strokes behind Sutherland. Michael Block won a four-man playoff for the final spot.
Fred Funk, who won a Champions Tour event in Hawaii earlier this year but is not done with the regular tour, showed he still has game by earning one of the five spots at Woodmont Country Club in Maryland. Rhys Davies of Wales was the medalist at 137, followed by Joey Sindelar, another guy who will be eligible for the Champions Tour next year.
The final two spots were to be decided by a three-man playoff Tuesday morning that included Luke List.
Clarke did not earn one of the nine spots available at Walton Heath for primarily European Tour members. Clarke, who lost his wife to cancer last August a month before he led Europe to victory in the Ryder Cup, missed by eight shots after rounds of 75-72. It was the first time in 10 years he failed to qualify for a major.
'The current state of my game is not good enough for the U.S. Open anyway, so it is maybe not such a bad thing,' he said. 'I'm working hard, but it's not happening for me at the moment.'
The leading qualifiers in Europe were Nick Dougherty, Peter Hanson and Darren Fichardt.
In other qualifiers Monday:
  • Illinoi golf coach Mike Small was among four qualifiers to earn a U.S. Open berth at Riverside Golf Club outside Chicago. Small also qualified for the PGA Championship last year at Medinah as a club pro. He shot 71-69 to share medalist honors with Jeff Brehaut, who is on the Nationwide Tour this year.
  • In Georgia, Jason Dufner earned one of three spots at Hawks Ridge Golf Club. Among those who failed to qualify was Larry Nelson, who won the 1983 U.S. Open at Oakmont.
  • In the other qualifier in the Columbus area, Jason Kokrak, Tom Gillis, Kyle Dobbs and Jacob Rogers earned the four spots.
  • At Jupiter Hills Club in south Florida, amateur Jeff Golden and Chris Condello earned the two spots.
  • Michael Berg earned the only spot available at Indian Hills Country Club in Mission Hills, Kan.
  • Alex Prugh, an amateur from Spokane, Wash., earned the lone spot from the Washington state qualifier with a 71-69.
  • At Columbine Country Club outside Denver, Jason Allen qualified for his second U.S. Open with a birdie on the first playoff hole to get the one spot from a 20-man field. He beat Dustin White, who qualified for the U.S. Open last year.
  • At Purchase Country Club north of New York City, Geoffrey Sisk, Frank Bensel and Ricky Barnes all qualified.
    Related links:
  • Sectional Qualifying Results
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.