Qualifying Statement

By John FeinsteinMay 24, 2011, 7:03 pm

On a rainy morning in London six years ago, Michael Campbell’s alarm clock went off shortly after dawn. Tired, not very happy with his golf game, he turned it off and decided he was going back to sleep. When his wife Julie realized what he was doing she reminded him that he had a tee time that morning at Walton Heath to play in a qualifier for the U.S. Open.

 

Campbell shook his head. There really wasn’t much point, he figured, in grinding through 36 holes. Julie was insistent. It was a major championship. You can sleep tomorrow. Reluctantly, Campbell listened to his wife, got out of bed and dragged himself to the golf course.

 

Late that afternoon, he made a 6-foot birdie putt on the 36th hole to qualify for the Open. A month later, at Pinehurst, he held Tiger Woods off down the stretch and became a major champion, a victory that turned his career in the right direction and cemented his place in the golfing pantheon forever.

 

It never would have happened if he didn’t get out of bed for the qualifier.

 

On Monday, Sergio Garcia did not play a British Open qualifier in Dallas because of an infected fingernail. In this day and age of instant communication, he sent out a tweet announcing to the golf world that he just couldn’t finish the qualifier saying he “couldn’t grip a club.”

 

It is very difficult to question an athlete when injured. Only they know exactly how much pain they can handle. Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg asked to be removed from a game against the Philadelphia Phillies last summer because he felt some soreness in his pitching elbow. Rob Dibble, then the Nationals TV analyst, questioned Strasburg’s toughness. Two days later, the team announced Strasburg would undergo Tommy John surgery and be out for more than a year. Soon after that the team announced that Dibble was also out – forever.

 

Garcia showed up, played five holes and withdrew. At the very least his intentions were good. As it turned out, the qualifier was reduced to 18 holes because of rain and Jerry Kelly won a 6-for-1 playoff among players who finished at 3 under par for the last of the six spots. Garcia was even par when he quit. Maybe he really was in serious pain.

 

It will be interesting to see if Garcia tees it up Thursday at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, where he is a past champion. He has said that, even though he is entered in a U.S. Open qualifier in two weeks he intends to try to play his way into the field without qualifying. That would mean getting his world ranking up from 73 to 50 or better by the close of golf business June 12.

 

Based on recent results, good luck Sergio. Let’s see how quickly he recovers from that infected fingernail.

 

There’s no blaming a player for not wanting to get out of bed to play a 36-hole qualifier, whether it be for the British Open or the U.S. Open. If you’re an established player – especially if you are someone who has been a star – being in a qualifier means you haven’t been playing very well. Vijay Singh, once the No. 1 player in the world, who hasn’t missed a major championship since 1994 and is in the World Golf Hall of Fame, is currently in that predicament. He is entered in the U.S. Open qualifier set for June 6. Bet he shows up.

 

The guys who get the game, who understand that golf is unforgiving but that playing in a major championship is a gift show up for qualifiers no matter how much they want to stay in bed on a rainy morning.

 

Arnold Palmer played in U.S. Open qualifiers late in his career when he was no longer exempt. So did Greg Norman. Garcia has won seven times on the PGA Tour. Palmer won seven majors.

 

On Monday, while Garcia nursed his fingernail, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III – who will be in the Hall of Fame someday – showed up and played the British Open qualifier (as he has done successfully in the past) and made it into the field at Royal St. George’s where he nearly won the championship in 2003.

 

The qualifiers are an important part of the two Opens. They give everyone a chance to play their way into a major championship. The stories that come out of them are frequently as good or better than the stories from the tournaments themselves.

 

In recent years, the U.S. Golf Association and the R&A have tried to make it easier for players who have to go through qualifying by setting up qualifers overseas. Once, you had to travel to the U.S. to qualify for the U.S. Open and to Great Britain to qualify for the British. That’s no longer the case.

 

Campbell isn’t the only player to survive qualifying and win. Steve Jones did it in 1996 at Oakland Hills. Rocco Mediate didn’t win in 2008 at Torrey Pines but he lost one of the most memorable playoffs in U.S. Open history to Tiger Woods. When Ben Hogan won the only British Open he ever played in back in 1953, he played in a 36-hole qualifier because everyone had to qualify. Arnold Palmer did the same thing in 1960. Both men had won The Masters and U.S. Open to start the year.

 

Those were the rules back then. Hogan followed them and so did Palmer. Nowadays the rules give players numerous different ways to get into either Open without qualifying. But if you aren’t exempt, the qualifier is still there as an opportunity, not an albatross.

 

Sure, the weather is likely to be hot or rainy. Sure you might find yourself paired with someone you’ve never heard of before. It is one day out of a very privileged life with a huge potential payback.

 

Let’s hope that Garcia and Singh show up for their U.S. Open qualifiers along with all the other good players who will be at the various sectional qualifiers that will be played in two weeks. As Tom Kite once said about Americans who skipped the British Open because they found the travel inconvenient: “It’s a major championship and you can’t win it unless you show up to play in it.”

 

That’s true, even if you have to show up early. Ask Michael Campbell.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.