U.S. Open the 'most democratic championship'

By Doug FergusonJune 5, 2012, 8:46 pm

The U.S. Open prides itself on being the toughest test in golf.

It never said anything about wanting to have the toughest field in golf, and we can only hope it doesn't follow the British Open down that road.

By staying true to its title - ''Open'' - the 36-hole qualifiers across the country delivered compelling stories of players who earned a spot in the U.S. Open. They were young and old, some with professional aspirations, others with only dreams, and one who can only get by riding in a cart.

Casey Martin rode his way to a tie for 23rd at The Olympic Club in 1998, the only major he ever played. He never imagined going back to the same course in San Francisco at age 40, now the golf coach at Oregon, his limp more severe but his resolve stronger.

A former teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford, he suffers from a rare circulatory disorder in his right leg that causes extreme pain and makes it virtually impossible for him to walk 18 holes. Martin had to prove that to the PGA Tour in a lawsuit, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld. His single-rider cart caused a sensation at the U.S. Open, but it only took him so far. Martin earned his Tour card a year later, though he stayed in the big leagues only one season. Six years ago, he gave up his tour career to become a golf coach.

In a race to finish because he was exhausted, Martin holed a 5-foot par putt on the final hole at Emerald Valley to earn the first of two spots from the Oregon qualifier. He turned with his hands on his hips and looked to the gathering storm clouds, amazed at what just happened.

Woods was as amazed as anyone. He said Tuesday on Twitter, ''Simply incredible. Ability, attitude and guts. See you at Olympic Casey.''

Oregon reached the semifinals of the NCAA Championship last weekend at Riviera, and Martin had not played golf in nine days. He was not expecting to get through, so he booked a recruiting trip to North Carolina for next week.

''This,'' he told Golf Channel with a grin, ''is a little better.''

The last U.S. Open champion who had to go through the 18-hole local qualifier and 36-hole sectional qualifier was Orville Moody in 1969. But that was a different era. Moody had lost in a playoff on Tour only two months earlier.

Casey Martin isn't going to win the U.S. Open.

Neither is Dennis Miller, the 42-year-old teaching pro from Ohio who provided the ''Caddyshack'' moment of U.S. Open qualifying when his putt hung on the lip so long that he turned his back and never saw it fall in. Unlike the movie, at least the assistant head greenskeeper didn't blow up Scioto with plastic explosives trying to kill a gopher.

Brice Garnett has never played in a major, much less a Tour-sanctioned event. He will be at The Olympic Club. Cole Howard, an alternate out of the first stage of qualifying, learned the day after his grandmother died that he made it to the final stage and will be making his U.S. Open debut.

Anthony Summers used to clean toilets at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Still toiling away on the OneAsia circuit, he flew from Australia to Chicago and qualified for his first major championship at age 42.

These are the stories that set the U.S. Open apart from the other three majors.

The PGA Championship is restricted to professionals. The Masters is the most elite. The British Open, the oldest championship in golf, gave up part of its charm in 2004 when it tried to strengthen its field. Instead of having the final qualifying stage at four links courses on the weekend before the tournament, it opted for international qualifiers at odd times of the year in Asia, Africa and Australia and in Europe and America.

Gone are the days when mini-tour players, amateurs and proven tour players shared the same parking lot and tee time to try to get into the British Open.

The U.S. Open now offers qualifying in Europe and Japan, but it still forces most players to earn their tee times through qualifying. That's old school. U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis rarely misses a chance to say how many players must qualify (typically about half the 156-man field). And it was his predecessor, David Fay, who once said, ''It's not the best field in golf. It never pretended to be. It's the most democratic championship.''

Now, the British Open offers only 12 spots from its final stage of local qualifying. The U.S. Open, during the last 10 years, averages 29 players who made it through local and sectional qualifying for a chance to play in the same championship as Woods and Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.

Getting to the U.S. Open is half the fun.

Qualifying, where nearly 800 players competed for 58 spots at The Olympic Club, soon will be the only place to find such stories. This fall will be the last edition of Q-school, where some of these no-name players have six days to try to earn a job on Tour. That's for a chance to play in the big leagues for one year. This is a chance to play one week.

Martin, of course, knows what comes next. He was 26 and still trying to make it onto the Tour when he last played the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club. He never broke par, but not many did, including Woods. The course, built on a hill that drops down toward Lake Merced, is no pushover.

''I want to be excited,'' Martin said on Monday night. ''But I know when I get on that first tee, it's going to be really difficult.''

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Lewis wins Portugal Masters for second time

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 6:19 pm

VILAMOURA, Portugal – Tom Lewis won the Portugal Masters for a second time after shooting a 5-under 66 in Sunday's final round.

Lewis finished three strokes ahead of fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell (67) and Australia's Lucas Herbert (71).

Sergio Garcia prepared for the Ryder Cup next weekend with a 65 to finish seven strokes behind Lewis.

Lewis made six birdies along with a single bogey on No. 10 to finish the tournament at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course on 22-under 262.

Herbert led through the first three rounds only to struggle on the final day. He hit a double bogey on the final hole to finish the round on par.

Lewis had trailed Herbert by nine shots after the first round.

''It's been a rough ride but this week I played hard,'' Lewis said. ''I obviously got off to a bad start, to finish the way I've been finishing has been brilliant.''

Lewis first won the tournament in 2011.

''I think this one means more,'' Lewis said, ''it means a lot to come and win this again.''

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 23, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods has a three-shot lead entering the final round of the Tour Championship and is alongside Rory McIlroy in the final group. We're tracking him.


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Rose tries to ignore scenarios, focus on winning

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:59 am

ATLANTA – No one has more to play for than Justin Rose on Sunday at the Tour Championship.

The Englishman will begin the day three strokes behind front-runner Tiger Woods after a third-round 68 that could have been much worse after he began his day with back-to-back bogeys.

Winning the tournament will be Rose’s top priority, but there’s also the lingering question of the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, which he is currently projected to claim.


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“The way I look at tomorrow is that I have many scenarios in play. I have the FedExCup in play. I have all of that to distract me,” Rose said. “But yet, I'm three back. I think that's my objective tomorrow is to come out and play good, positive golf and try and chase down the leader and win this golf tournament. I think in some ways that'll help my other task of trying to win the FedExCup. It'll keep me on the front foot and playing positive golf.”

Although there are many scenarios for Rose to win the season-long title, if Woods wins the Tour Championship, Rose would need to finish fifth or better to claim the cup.

There’s also the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to consider. Rose overtook Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world with his runner-up finish at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. He will retain the top spot unless Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka or Johnson win the finale and he falls down the leaderboard on Sunday.

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McIlroy needs putter to heat up to catch Woods

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:29 am

ATLANTA – Although Rory McIlroy is three strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Tour Championship and tied for second place he had the look of a man with a secret when he left East Lake on Saturday.

Trying to play catch up against Woods is never ideal, but McIlroy’s confidence stemmed from a tee-to-green game that has been unrivaled for three days.

“I definitely think today and the first day were similar,” said McIlroy, whose 66 included birdies at two of his final three holes. “I gave myself plenty of chances, and I think the biggest thing today was only just that one bogey. Got to put your ball in the fairway, put yourself in position, and for the most part, I did that today.”


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


For the week McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee, third in strokes gained: approach to the green and second in greens in regulation. But to catch Woods, who he will be paired with, he’ll need a much better day on the greens.

The Northern Irishman needed 30 putts on Day 2 and ranks 23rd, out of 30 players, in strokes gained: putting.

McIlroy skipped the first playoff event, opting instead for an extra week at home to work on his swing and the move has paid off.

“I hit the ball well. My wedge play has been really good,” he said. “I've done a lot of work on it the last few weeks, and it seems to have paid off.”