Got $150 and a dream? Open is open to one and all

By Doug FergusonJune 4, 2013, 9:09 pm

Geoffrey Sisk is going back to the U.S. Open, an example of why this major championship truly is open to one and all.

In what looked like a marathon and felt like a sprint, the 48-year-old New Englander went from being a long shot to assuring himself of a tee time at the U.S. Open in just 20 days.

Sisk was among 18 players – the smallest group in more than a decade – who made it through 18 holes of local qualifying and then 36 holes of sectional qualifying to join Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and the rest of the stars at Merion next week for the toughest test in golf.

The hard part for Sisk was just getting there. And it gets even more impressive.

This was the sixth time he has gone through both stages to qualify for the U.S. Open.

''I wish I wouldn't have, to be honest with you,'' Sisk said, while waiting to catch a train from New York to Boston.

The chuckle made it clear that he was actually glad that he paid the $150 fee to enter America's national championship. But it was another reminder how maddening this game can be.

Sisk has been a pro for 25 years. He made it to the PGA Tour only one time, for the 1999 season. He has been around long enough to have started on the Tour's developmental circuit when it was known as the Hogan Tour.

''There's part of me that says, 'This is great,''' Sisk said. ''The flip side is that if I can do this now – I performed well – why can't I do this on the other levels? I'm my own worst enemy sometimes. But I just try to do the best I can.''

There are other stories like Sisk's, as always.

Mackenzie Hughes didn't make it out of local qualifying – he was the first alternate. But a spot opened up for him at Old Warson in St. Louis, where he was among 42 players competing for two spots. Hughes went 72-70 and earned the final spot in a playoff. He was so flustered that, when interviewed by Golf Channel after his round, he forgot which state Merion was located in. He was on his way to Vancouver to play before the U.S. Open. Let's hope he finds his way.

Wil Collins and Ryan Nelson made it through both stages for the second time.

But six times?

''I think after going to Shinnecock (in 2004) and Oakmont (in 2007), I thought these golf courses were too tough for me,'' Sisk said. ''This year, I don't have any status on any tour. I'm not playing a lot of tournaments. So I spent the $150 to add a tournament to my very limited schedule. And I added a big one.''

Sisk shot a 68 at Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth, Mass., to grab one of the five spots at his local qualifier. He signed up for the New York sectional because it was the closest one to home, and he had rounds of 68-69 at Old Oaks and Century to share medalist honors, making it with two shots to spare.

Most of his U.S. Open memories are from Shinnecock Hills, where he made his U.S. Open debut the year before Woods turned pro. He had played some in South Africa and remembered the tall, athletic kid with an easy swing. So when he saw Ernie Els in the hotel lobby – Els was the defending champion that year – he asked for a practice round.

''I'd had a few cocktails, I asked him, and he said, 'Sure, why don't we play.' Mark McNulty was going to join us,'' Sisk said. ''I'm at the putting green, and Ernie says, 'Sisky, you ready?' I said, 'Where's Mark?' And he said he wasn't there, along with a few choice words, and we were ready. Back then, I knew nothing about the U.S. Open. They had a starter on the tee who said, 'Now teeing off, Geoffrey Sisk and Ernie Els, the 1994 champion.

''All of a sudden it goes from two people around us to about 200 on the first tee,'' he said. ''I'd never played before so many people in my life.''

He made it back to Shinnecock in 2004 after both stages of qualifying and was enjoying one of his best Opens, just 5 over going into the final round. That's the year the course got away from the USGA, particularly the green on the par-3 seventh hole.

''I remember hearing a rumor that Kevin Stadler had lipped out a par putt from 2 feet on No. 7, and his ball went into a bunker,'' Sisk said. ''I hit a perfect shot that landed on a ledge and stayed on a ledge. A foot shorter, a foot longer, it would have been dead. I two-putted and never smiled so much over a par. I think I had four or five birdies that day and still shot 82.''

His next U.S. Open adventure could be a homecoming of sorts for Sisk, who played college golf at Temple until he graduated in 1987. But he doesn't see it that way. It was just another tournament to add to his schedule, another chance to test himself in a championship where he plays his best just to get in.

How many more times will he try? Perhaps a more significant question is what keeps a guy going when he's 48 and had made it to the big leagues just once?

''I always said I would stop playing competitive golf when I did the best I could, and things were going backward,'' he said.

The next stop is Merion, though he wasn't in a huge rush to get there. Keegan Bradley, the former PGA champion and another New Englander, sent him a text of congratulations and invited him to fill out a group on Sunday that includes Rickie Fowler.

While he made it back to the U.S. Open, Sisk knows it will be even tougher the next time. Only five years ago, more than 30 players made it through local and sectional. But golf is getting younger, deeper.

''Without a doubt, local qualifying is not easy nowadays,'' he said.

Nonetheless, it still has room for anyone with $150 and a dream.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.