David Lingmerth topped the sixth-ranked player in the world in a playoff Sunday at the $6.2 million Memorial Tournament, but he’ll watch the U.S. Open from home after he slept two hours and failed the 36-hole test.
The Road to Chambers Bay proved a bit smoother for a slumping former world No. 1, a Champions Tour regular and a 15-year-old high-school freshman, all of whom earned their spot in the field through sectional qualifying on Monday.
Gotta love golf’s ultimate meritocracy.
Here are the five best stories to emerge from one of the most fascinating days in golf:
MICHAEL PUTNAM: Imagine all of the pressure he felt to get through – and then the relief after he closed with 64 to lead the toughest sectional. Putnam lives about a mile and a half from Chambers Bay, his dad still walks the four-and-a-half-mile loop around the course each morning, and he estimated that he’s played there about 40 times. That’s a big deal, remember, because USGA executive director Mike Davis cautioned that only the players who took the necessary time to learn the course had a chance to win. Putnam isn’t the favorite next week, of course, but he is one of two local products in the field, along with Ryan Moore. Last week Moore, who grew up about 15 miles from Chambers Bay, said that he “can’t go anywhere” without being asked about the upcoming Open venue. To have a rare home game, it’s definitely worth it.
CASTRO BROTHERS: Roberto Castro had a few uneasy moments Monday in Ball Ground, Ga. Waiting to see if his 12-under 132 total would be good enough to secure one of the three berths, it became clear that only one player could spoil his bid: his younger brother, Franco. In fact, he stood over a 15-foot birdie putt on the final green that would have forced a playoff between the two brothers, but it slid by. “A friend of mine said if you play this game long enough, you’ll see everything,” Roberto told Georgia Tech’s website. “That definitely goes to the top of the list. Crazy stuff.” Franco is now the first alternate from that site, and there is a chance that both Castros could still make their way to Chambers Bay. The U.S. Open field has eight spots available, which will be filled by those who move into the OWGR top 60 Monday and then the alternates.
LUKE DONALD: Back in sectional qualifying for the first time in 11 years, the former world No. 1 benefited from not only playing his home course (Bears Club), but also having swing coach Pat Goss on the bag as he earned one of the four spots in Jupiter, Fla. It’s been a rough go of late for Donald. He has one top 10 this season and has played so poorly over the last 18 months that he’s fallen outside the top 60 in the world, thus necessitating his return to sectionals. This will be his 13th Open appearance, and likely the one he enters with the lowest expectations.
OLD AND NEW: Fifty-year-old Lee Janzen, who won the U.S. Open in 1993 and ’98 and now plays full-time on the Champions circuit, medaled in New York, while 15-year-old Cole Hammer, a rising sophomore who has already committed to play college golf at Texas, was two shots clear of the cut line in Dallas. They are the oldest and youngest qualifiers, respectively. Janzen hasn’t played in the Open since 2008, when his 10-year exemption expired. Hammer, meanwhile, is the third-youngest qualifier in the Open's long history.
AMATEUR HOUR: Fourteen youngsters yet to join the play-for-pay ranks moved on to Chambers, the most since 2009. Some big names among them, too: Beau Hossler, who is already making his third Open appearance; Bryson DeChambeau, the NCAA champion who advanced through the Tour-heavy Columbus regional; Lee McCoy, a Haskins Award finalist and four-time winner this season; and Sam Horsfield, the English prodigy who has been trumpeted by Ian Poulter. Last year only one amateur made the cut at Pinehurst, but a few up-and-comers have starred at the Open over the past several years. The battle for low-am honors should be fierce.