US Open Draws Various Entries
'Of all the golf tournaments you play, the USGA does it better than anybody,' he said. 'Son, they treat you like you've never seen in your life, they treat you like you wouldn't even believe.'
Two years after missing the cut at Olympia Fields, Brisson is on the cusp of making it back to the Open - he secured one of eight spots from the local qualifier earlier this week at River Landing, his home course about 30 miles north of Wilmington.
Brisson is one of more than 9,000 golfers who signed up for this year's tournament, which will be held at Pinehurst Country Club's famed No. 2 course.
The record number of entrants playing in local qualifiers at 107 sites around the country includes former baseball slugger Mark McGwire, former tennis great Ivan Lendl and NHL star Brett Hull, as well as teen sensation Michelle Wie and two other women. Wie was scheduled to play in a first-round qualifier Friday in Honolulu.
It's what makes the U.S. Open, well, open - just like the movie 'Tin Cup' and fictional driving range pro Roy McAvoy.
'It's neat that if you're good enough, if you can shoot the scores, you can get in the tournament,' said former PGA Tour player and current North Carolina golf coach John Inman, another hopeful at River Landing. 'Now, you've got to shoot low scores, because there's a lot of great players out there, but everybody has a chance.'
Not quite everybody. Eligibility is limited to amateurs with a handicap of less than 1.5 and professionals such as Brisson. Anyone meeting that criteria can pay an entry fee of $125 and sign up for local qualifying. Those who make it out of qualifying move on to 36-hole sectionals in late May and early June.
Of course, this doesn't apply to current tour players. Most are at least exempt from the local level, and several - including Tiger Woods and the rest of the 'Big Five' - don't have to qualify at all.
Still, once you get in, everybody essentially has the same chance. In 1996, Steve Jones came through both rounds of qualifying to win the Open at Oakland Hills, holding off Tom Lehman and Davis Love III by a single shot to follow in the footsteps of Jerry Pate, another qualifier who won the Open 20 years earlier.
Perhaps that's what draws so many wannabes.
Last week, struggling pro Ryan Gioffre told his wife that he was going to quit, disheartened after he missed the cut in 13 of 15 starts last year on the Nationwide Tour. So far this year, he has earned $4,050 in three tournaments on the Tarheel Tour, a mini-tour based near Charlotte, N.C.
Yet he rebounded with a 7-under 65 at River Landing to earn a spot in the next stage, encouraging him to stick with it for a little bit longer.
'I cannot stand to be on the Tarheel Tour anymore,' Gioffre said. 'I cannot stand to be minor league. I hate it. I'd rather go get a job and play golf to enjoy it, because my expectations are a lot higher. And sometimes that's good, and sometimes that's bad.'
Besides, the 30-year-old is ready to start a family.
'We just got a puppy three months ago, and we're having a hard enough time taking care of that thing,' he said with a smile.
Life hasn't been much easier for Australian Nick Flanagan, the surprising winner of the U.S. Amateur two years ago. The former soccer player didn't take up the game regularly until watching Tiger Woods' convincing victory in the 1997 Masters, then traveled to Oakmont Country Club in 2003 and beat Casey Wittenburg, the top amateur in the country at the time.
Flanagan turned pro last summer after missing the cut at the U.S. Open - one of many players who struggled at difficult Shinnecock Hills - and his poor play continued the rest of the year. So far, he's had more success in 2005, and he secured a spot in the British Open through qualifying back home.
The solid play continued at River Landing, where he took medalist honors with a 64.
'I think you just play more as a pro, and it wasn't the best of starts for me,' the 20-year-old said. 'But so far, this year has changed me around a little bit, I'm playing better. So, hopefully, it gets easier from here on in.'
It won't be easy for anyone to qualify, including Wie. Now in the 10th grade at Punahou School in Honolulu, she already has played 20 times on the LPGA Tour, twice on the PGA Tour and once each on the Nationwide and Canadian tours.
The 15-year-old has shown she can play just fine with the women. In three LPGA tournaments this year, including a major, Wie has tied for second, tied for 12th and tied for 14th two weeks ago at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. If she was a pro, she would have enough money to be 10th on the money list.
And Wie isn't the youngest woman among the hopefuls. That distinction goes to 14-year-old Carmen Bandea from suburban Atlanta.
Lendl wasn't good enough this year, shooting 78 in Palm Harbor, Fla., earlier this week to miss a playoff by six shots. Hull plays Monday near Dallas and McGwire tries Wednesday in Newport Beach, Calif.
They hope to join the rest of the fortunate hopefuls in the next stage, along with a host of tour players. If Brisson makes it all the way to the Open, maybe he can create a moment to top one from his trip to Olympia Fields.
'My wife pulled into the golf course and she about ran over Phil Mickelson,' Brisson said. 'And then she said, 'That's Phil Mickelson.' And I said, 'No kidding, you about took his legs out.''
His eyes sparkled at the memory, while a few feet away, his wife cringed a bit with embarrassment.
'It was amazing,' he said.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Schauffele just fine being the underdog
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.
Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.
Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.
“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”
Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.
“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”
Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1
Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.
So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.
Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.
Jordan Spieth: 7/4
Xander Schauffele: 5/1
Kevin Kisner: 11/2
Tiger Woods: 14/1
Francesco Molinari: 14/1
Rory McIlroy: 14/1
Kevin Chappell: 20/1
Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1
Alex Noren: 25/1
Zach Johnson: 30/1
Justin Rose: 30/1
Matt Kuchar: 40/1
Webb Simpson: 50/1
Adam Scott: 80/1
Tony Finau: 80/1
Charley Hoffman: 100/1
Austin Cook: 100/1
Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.
For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.
By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.
But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.
As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.
“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”
Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.
As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.
But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.
After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.
“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”
But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.
Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.
“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.
There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.
Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par.
And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.
As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.
“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”
Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.
Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.
The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.
Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.
It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.
Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.
One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.
McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.
“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”
McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.
“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”