The long road to the US Open

By Doug FergusonJune 9, 2009, 4:00 pm
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2009 U.S. OpenGERMANTOWN, Tenn. ' Paul Goydos milled around the front of the clubhouse, killing time with a few PGA Tour peers as he waited for more scores to be posted on the white poster board at Germantown Country Club.
He had spent eight hours trudging across the fairways of two golf courses outside Memphis in a 36-hole qualifier. One course wouldnt let his caddie walk the course to take down yardages, critical preparation for any golfer. If he wanted a bottle of water, it was going to cost him $4.
Goydos was no longer a PGA Tour player on this day. He was no different from the teenager in his group, Cameron Peck. Both only wanted a chance to play in the U.S. Open.
Its pretty cool, Goydos said. Everyone is starting out the same.
An hour earlier, Goydos hit 3-iron to the edge of the par-5 closing hole at Ridgeway, chipped to about 6 feet and missed his birdie putt. He didnt think much about it until he saw that his 4-under 136 total might have a chance to make it.
More names were added to the board, moving him into a tie for 10th. That would mean a five-way playoff for four spots.
Another name. Now five players for three spots.
I think Im going to regret not getting up-and-down on the last hole, Goydos said as he headed to the practice range to warm up.
When he returned for the playoff, there were six players for the last of 13 spots from the Tennessee qualifier. It went to Greg Kraft, who made birdie on the first hole and knocked out Marc Leishman on the next hole with a par.
For so many others, it turned out to be a long day, a wasted effort.
Goydos felt otherwise.
If you play good, you make it, he said. I love 36 holes of qualifying because theres plenty of spots. We just played a British Open qualifier over here, and eight of us got in. What is there today? Something like 50? More?
There were 63 spots available at 13 sectional qualifiers across the country.
Joe Durant looked around at two dozen other players waiting for the scores to be posted. Some of them were on the PGA Tour, some of them not quite good enough, most of them were wearing shorts, all of them were exhausted.
When you see this, Durant said, thats when you know how badly guys want to make it.
There are no leaderboards, no bright lights at sectional qualifying. Alex Cejka played in the final pairing at The Players Championship with Tiger Woods before thousands of fans, and a month later he was walking the fairways with someone he might never see again.
It will be different next week at Bethpage Black.
The 156 players who compete in the U.S. Open will drive luxury courtesy cars, walk past thousands of fans wanting their autograph. There were be television cameras, photographers, 50,000 fans framing every fairway.
Its worth remembering that it didnt start out this way.
The USGA said 9,086 golfers signed up for the U.S. Open this year. The process of elimination began in May with a month of 18-hole local qualifying at 112 courses across the country, even one in Alaska.
Woods, the defending champion, was among 75 players who didnt have to qualify because of their performance last year in various categories. That left 870 players to compete for 81 spots (including qualifiers in England and Japan).
Before the opening tee shot June 18, the starter will announce to the crowd how many players entered the U.S. Open.
It will sound like a formality. It means more than that.
The U.S. Open not only considers itself the toughest test in golf, but the major that offers more opportunity than the other three.
I challenge anyone to say there is a more democratic golf competition, USGA executive director David Fay said.
He speaks more as a film critic than a politician.
This time of the year is when Fay often thinks of the scene from the movie Tin Cup, when Roy McAvoy decides to qualify for the U.S. Open because its the one tournament they cant keep you out.
Ryan Blaum, who graduated from Duke a few years ago, will be playing his first U.S. Open. He is still chasing around on the mini-tours, but chose a qualifying site filled with PGA Tour players ' including major champions and Ryder Cup players ' because there were 13 spots available. Some sites offered only one spot.
The golf course doesnt know who you are, Blaum said.
Fay cannot remember a year since he has been at the USGA when the majority of the 156-man field was not set aside for qualifiers. It matters not that the last U.S. Open champion to make it through local and sectional qualifying was Orville Moody in 1969, or the last U.S. Open winner to go through sectional qualifying in the United States was Steve Jones in 1996.
Anyone who has the game, they can try, Fay said. And its not just the scene you saw in Memphis, but at the local qualifying where you really see players trying to catch magic in the jar.
David Duval earned his way back to the U.S. Open by getting one of the 17 spots in Columbus, Ohio. He has perspective to go along with the privilege of playing golf for a living since 1994.
Who knows how he will fare at Bethpage Black, but he found satisfaction in getting there through 36 holes of qualifying.
If theres ever a time in golf that youre working, thats it, he said.
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    Watson back in top 40 after OWGR free fall

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Bubba Watson ended his free fall in the Official World Golf Ranking with a two-shot victory Sunday at the Genesis Open.

    Watson, a fixture in the top 10 in the world as recently as 13 months ago, had dropped all the way to 117th after a 2017 season in which he struggled with poor form, illness and desire.

    After his third career win at Riviera, he is up to 40th.

    Kevin Na rose from 95th to 65th after tying for second in Los Angeles, while Tony Finau jumped from 41st to 33rd.

    Tiger Woods actually improved in the world ranking, from No. 550 to No. 544, despite a missed cut at the Genesis Open.

    On the European Tour, Joost Luiten surged from 90th to 68th after his victory in Oman.

    The top 10 in the world remained unchanged as the PGA Tour heads into the Florida swing: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy.

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    Bubba catapults, Phil creeps up in Ryder Cup standings

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 1:21 pm

    Bubba Watson was an assistant on the 2016 Ryder Cup team. He doesn’t want to be driving a cart in Paris.

    Watson, thanks to his victory in the Genesis Open, jumped from 60th to 10th in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings. The top eight after the PGA Championship qualify automatically for this year’s edition at Le Golf National in France.

    Phil Mickelson moved up one spot to 11th after tying for sixth at Riviera Country Club.

    Players will receive one point per dollar earned in regular events this year, with 1.5 points per dollar in majors and two points per dollar for winning a major. Here's a look at the current U.S. standings:

    1. Dustin Johnson

    2. Brooks Koepka

    3. Justin Thomas

    4. Jordan Spieth

    5. Matt Kuchar

    6. Brian Harman

    7. Gary Woodland

    8. Rickie Fowler


    9. Chez Reavie

    10. Bubba Watson

    11. Phil Mickelson

    12. Patrick Reed

    On the European side, the top four players from the Ryder Cup points list will be joined by the top four qualifiers from the world points list, with captain Thomas Bjorn making four additional selections. Here's a look at the current top names:

    Ryder Cup Points

    1. Justin Rose

    2. Tyrrell Hatton

    3. Ross Fisher

    4. Matthew Fitzpatrick

    World Points

    1. Jon Rahm

    2. Tommy Fleetwood

    3. Sergio Garcia

    4. Rory McIlroy

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    Genesis Open purse payout: Bubba makes bank

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 1:03 pm

    Bubba Watson won the Genesis Open for a third time on Sunday, moving his career PGA Tour win total to 10. Here's a look at how the purse paid out at Riviera Country Club.

    1 Bubba Watson -12 $1,296,000
    T2 Kevin Na -10 $633,600
    T2 Tony Finau -10 $633,600
    T4 Scott Stallings -9 $316,800
    T4 Patrick Cantlay -9 $316,800
    T6 Adam Hadwin -8 $241,200
    T6 Phil Mickelson -8 $241,200
    T6 Cameron Smith -8 $241,200
    T9 Jordan Spieth -7 $180,000
    T9 Martin Laird -7 $180,000
    T9 Xander Schauffele -7 $180,000
    T9 Ryan Moore -7 $180,000
    T9 Justin Thomas -7 $180,000
    T14 James Hahn -6 $133,200
    T14 Aaron Baddeley -6 $133,200
    T16 Alex Noren -4 $111,600
    T16 Sung-hoon Kang -4 $111,600
    T16 Dustin Johnson -4 $111,600
    T16 Derek Fathauer -4 $111,600
    T20 Rory McIlroy -3 $78,000
    T20 Bud Cauley -3 $78,000
    T20 Kevin Chappell -3 $78,000
    T20 Talor Gooch -3 $78,000
    T20 Jason Kokrak -3 $78,000
    T20 Vaughn Taylor -3 $78,000
    T26 John Huh -2 $46,996
    T26 Peter Uihlein -2 $46,996
    T26 Luke List -2 $46,996
    T26 Rafael Cabrera Bello -2 $46,996
    T26 Patrick Rodgers -2 $46,996
    T26 Jamie Lovemark -2 $46,996
    T26 Dominic Bozzelli -2 $46,996
    T26 Matt Kuchar -2 $46,996
    T26 Anirban Lahiri -2 $46,996
    T26 Sam Saunders -2 $46,996
    T26 Graeme McDowell -2 $46,996
    T37 Branden Grace -1 $33,120
    T37 Tommy Fleetwood -1 $33,120
    T37 Charles Howell III -1 $33,120
    T37 Luke Donald -1 $33,120
    T41 Bryson DeChambeau E $24,516
    T41 Troy Merritt E $24,516
    T41 Kevin Streelman E $24,516
    T41 Pat Perez E $24,516
    T41 Charley Hoffman E $24,516
    T41 Brandon Harkins E $24,516
    T41 Jonas Blixt E $24,516
    T41 Nick Taylor E $24,516
    T49 Austin Cook 1 $17,964
    T49 Brendan Steele 1 $17,964
    T49 Paul Casey 1 $17,964
    T49 Chad Campbell 1 $17,964
    T53 Tom Hoge 2 $16,437
    T53 Benjamin Silverman 2 $16,437
    T53 Li HaoTong 2 $16,437
    T53 Retief Goosen 2 $16,437
    T53 Martin Kaymer 2 $16,437
    T53 Adam Schenk 2 $16,437
    T53 Adam Scott 2 $16,437
    T60 Ryan Blaum 3 $15,696
    T60 J.B. Holmes 3 $15,696
    T60 Harold Varner, III 3 $15,696
    63 Kelly Kraft 4 $15,408
    T64 Padraig Harrington 5 $15,120
    T64 Ryan Armour 5 $15,120
    T64 Sean O'Hair 5 $15,120
    67 Martin Piller 6 $14,832
    T68 Thomas Pieters 7 $14,400
    T68 Greg Chalmers 7 $14,400
    T68 Abraham Ancer 7 $14,400
    T68 Tyrone van Aswegen 7 $14,400
    T68 Charl Schwartzel 7 $14,400
    T73 Vijay Singh 8 $13,896
    T73 Chez Reavie 8 $13,896
    T75 Sang-Moon Bae 10 $13,608
    T75 David Lingmerth 10 $13,608
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    After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 2:39 am

    Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the horrifying car crash involving Bill Haas ...

    I spent a lot of time this week thinking about Bill Haas. He was the passenger in a car crash that killed a member of his host family. That man, 71-year-old Mark Gibello, was a successful businessman in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a new friend.

    Haas escaped without any major injuries, but he withdrew from the Genesis Open to return home to Greenville, S.C. When he’ll return to the Tour is anyone’s guess. It could be a while, as he grapples with the many emotions after surviving that horrifying crash – seriously, check out the photos – while the man next to him did not.

    The entire Haas clan is some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Wish them the best in their recovery. – Ryan Lavner

    On TIger Woods' missed cut at the Genesis Open ...

    After missing the cut at the Genesis Open by more than a few car lengths, Tiger Woods appeared to take his early exit in stride. Perhaps that in and of itself is a form of progress.

    Years ago, a second-round 76 with a tattered back-nine scorecard would have elicited a wide range of emotions. But none of them would have been particularly tempered, or optimistic, looking ahead to his next start. At age 42, though, Woods has finally ceded that a win-or-bust mentality is no longer helpful or productive.

    The road back from his latest surgery will be a winding one, mixed with both ups and downs. His return at Torrey Pines qualified as the former, while his trunk slam at Riviera certainly served as the latter. There will surely be more of both in the coming weeks and months, and Woods’ ability to stomach the rough patches could prove pivotal for his long-term prognosis. - Will Gray

    On the debate over increased driving distance on the PGA Tour ...

    The drumbeat is only going to get louder as the game’s best get longer. On Sunday, Bubba Watson pounded his way to his 10th PGA Tour title at the Genesis Open and the average driving distance continues to climb.

    Lost in the debate over driving distances and potential fixes, none of which seem to be simple, is a beacon of sanity, Riviera Country Club’s par-4 10th hole. The 10th played just over 300 yards for the week and yet yielded almost as many bogeys (86) as birdies (87) with a 4.053 stroke average.

    That ranks the 10th as the 94th toughest par 4 on Tour this season, ahead of behemoths like the 480-yard first at Waialae and 549-yard 17th at Kapalua. Maybe the game doesn’t need new rules that limit how far the golf ball goes, maybe it just needs better-designed golf holes. - Rex Hoggard

    On the depth of LPGA talent coming out of South Korea ...

    The South Korean pipeline to the LPGA shows no signs of drying up any time soon. Jin Young Ko, 22, won her LPGA debut as a tour member Sunday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and Hyejin Choi, 18, nearly won the right to claim LPGA membership there.

    The former world No. 1 amateur who just turned pro finished second playing on a sponsor exemption. Sung Hyun Park, who shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last year, is set to make her 2018 debut this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

    And Inbee Park is set to make her return to the LPGA in two weeks at the HSBC Women’s World Championship after missing most of last year due to injury. The LPGA continues to go through South Korea no matter where this tour goes. - Randall Mell