The 5 best stories to emerge from U.S. Open qualifying

By Ryan LavnerJune 9, 2015, 3:37 pm

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. 

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”