It appears that Guan Tianlang's spring U.S. golf tour will extend into summer.
Guan, 14, became the youngest player to make the cut in a major when he finished 58th earlier this month at the Masters. He's also in the field at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, who extended a sponsor exemption to the Chinese prodigy.
Having received a record number of entries to this year's U.S. Open, the USGA confirmed Thursday that Guan was among the 643 players who submitted their application on Wednesday, the final day of registration. Thanks to his win at last year's Asia-Pacific Amateur, the teen is exempt from local qualifying and will tee it up in the 36-hole sectional qualifier at Lakewood Country Club in Dallas on June 3.
While a win at the U.S. Open brings with it a 10-year exemption into the season's second major, a trio of former champions have seen that window close and will instead attempt to qualify in the hopes of returning to an event where they once stood triumphant. Lee Janzen, a winner in both 1993 and 1998, will have a qualifier spot later this summer, as will 1996 champion Steve Jones. Exempt from the local stage of qualifying, they will also be joined in the sectional round by 63-year-old Tom Kite, who won 21 years ago at Pebble Beach.
A list of 9,860 entries brings with it many familiar names, but one applicant is more well known for playing a game with a slightly larger ball – John Smoltz. A World Series champion in 1995 while pitching for the Atlanta Braves, Smoltz, 45, last played in the majors in 2009 and will now try to translate his skills from the pitcher's mound to the teeing ground.
Other notable athletes among those hoping for a spot in the field at Merion include Josh Scobee, current placekicker for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chris Sabo, a former 3-time All-Star at third base for the Cincinnati Reds, and Kelly Knievel, son of former daredevil Evil Knievel.