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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Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 1:53 am

WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.

It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.

Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.

''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''

The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.

It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.

''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.

''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''

A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.


Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open


The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.

''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''

Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.

''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.

''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''

Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.

Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.

''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''

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Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.


Full-field scores from the American Century Championship


''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.

Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.

Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.

His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.


Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players


The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.

McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

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Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

The week was more than nostalgic. 

It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.


Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open


The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.