DUBLIN, Ohio – Maybe it’s a forecast that’s hovered between miserable and monsoon. Maybe it’s simply too much golf during a crucial point in the schedule, or maybe it’s swirling tales of a Chambers Bay layout that is going to land on the marathon side of difficult.
Whatever the reason, Monday’s qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, historically the deepest of the 10 sectional qualifying sites for this month’s U.S. Open, has turned into a mad dash to the airport and drier points.
Nineteen players withdrew from the 36-hole event on Sunday, including the likes of Justin Leonard, Charles Howell III, Brendon de Jonge and Davis Love III. Nine more opted out on Monday, including Brendan Steele, Freddie Jacobson, Kyle Reifers and Patrick Rodgers.
The USGA announced Monday morning that those who hung around will be playing for 15 available spots, down one from last year.
Some of the withdrawals are injury related, like Tim Clark who hasn’t played since the Sony Open with an elbow injury, while Monday’s forecast – which ranges from an 80 percent chance of storms at 7 a.m. to a 100 percent chance of “heavy thunderstorms” by 6 p.m. – seems to have pushed many others to bypass their last chance to play the year’s second major.
“I looked at this [the Memorial] as my qualifier,” said Matt Jones, who at 71st in the Official World Golf Ranking needed at least a fourth-place finish at Muirfield Village to move into the top 60 and qualify. “I’ll have a week off, which is fine by me.”
The Columbus qualifier has produced some of the U.S. Open’s best stories in recent years. Last year, Erik Compton survived a playoff to earn a spot at Pinehurst and then went on to tie for second place. In 2009, Lucas Glover played his way to Bethpage and won the championship.
But the combination of poor weather and an unknown West Coast Open has caused players to sour on the qualifier and it may be a trend the USGA will need to address in future years.