U.S. Open sectional recaps: Donald in; Stricker out

By Will GrayJune 9, 2015, 2:39 am

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – One of the more grueling days on the golf calendar is now complete. Here is a look at how things fared at each of the 10 U.S. Open sectional qualifying sites on Monday, as the field for Chambers Bay is nearly filled:

Columbus, Ohio: The deepest qualifying field saw a player with significant ties to Chambers Bay come out on top. Michael Putnam hails from tiny University Place, Wash., and is as close as it comes to an expert on next week’s venue. He shared co-medalist honors with PGA Tour rookie Sam Saunders, while newly-crowned NCAA individual champ Bryson DeChambeau shared third place with David Hearn.

Qualifying spots also went to Sebastian Cappelen, Daniel Summerhays, George McNeill, Ryo Ishikawa, Brad Fritsch, Cameron Smith, Bo Van Pelt and Camilo Villegas.

A 5-for-3 playoff was required to determine the final spots, where Danny Lee, Robert Streb and D.A. Points earned berths, while Kevin Chappell and Alex Cejka were relegated to alternates.

Other notable misses include Vijay Singh, Memorial champ David Lingmerth and Steve Stricker, who will miss the U.S. Open for the first time since 2005.


Scores: U.S. Open sectional qualifying results


Memphis, Tenn.: Days after his wife, Morgan, gave birth to the couple’s first child, rookie Blayne Barber earned co-medalist honors with Tyler Duncan and Brad Elder to earn a spot in his first U.S. Open.

The other qualifiers were highlighted by Retief Goosen, whose 10-year exemption for the most recent of his two U.S. Open wins expired last year. He made it on the number, as did Andres Romero, who chipped in for eagle on his final hole of the day.

Other spots went to Tom Hoge, Brandon Hagy, Charlie Beljan, Brian Harman and amateur Davis Riley. Among the notables on the outside of the cut line were Harris English, David Toms and Martin Laird, who all missed by two shots, as well as former world No. 1 David Duval.


Jupiter, Fla.: A recent run of poor results sent Luke Donald to qualifying for the first time in more than a decade, but the former world No. 1 ensured that his streak of major appearances remained intact. Donald rebounded from a slow start to share medalist honors with Andrew Pope and amateur Jack Maguire.

The final spot went to amateur standout Sam Horsfield, who missed by a shot at the Florida sectional last year but this time around outlasted amateur Cristobal del Solar.

Notable misses included former Ryder Cuppers Chris DiMarco and Brett Wetterich.


Purchase, N.Y.: Two-time U.S. Open champ Lee Janzen earned his way back into the field for the first time since 2008, shooting rounds of 69-68 to take medalist honors. Janzen finished two shots ahead of Jamie Lovemark, while the final two spots went to Pat Wilson and Rich Berberian.

Notable misses included Johnson Wagner and four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champ Nathan Smith.


Springfield, Ohio: Fresh off a T-8 finish at the Memorial, Tony Finau made only one bogey across 36 holes and qualified with rounds of 66-67. Michael Davan, a player without status on a major tour, earned medalist honors, while the final spots went to Web.com player Stephan Jaeger and amateur Nick Hardy, who just completed his freshman year at Illinois.

Brian Stuard, who medaled in Springfield each of the last two years, missed by four shots.


Dallas: Mark Silvers earned medalist honors with rounds of 66-65, but the biggest story was 15-year-old amateur Cole Hammer, who earned a spot after opening with a 64. Hammer will be the youngest participant next week, as the other qualifying spots went to amateurs Matt Mabrey and Kyle Jones along with former Texas standout Cody Gribble and veteran Jason Allred.

Those missing out included Peter Malnati, Steve Marino, Carlos Ortiz and Bob Estes, making his first competitive start in more than a year after a shoulder injury.


Rockville, Md.: Former Navy golfer Billy Hurley III returned to the Old Line State and earned a spot in the U.S. Open, sharing medalist honors with amateur Denny McCarthy after rounds of 66-72. The final spot went to veteran Tim O’Neal, who years ago saw his Tour card vanish with a triple bogey on the final hole of Q-School.

O’Neal edged out Joshua Persons in a playoff, while notable misses included Steve Wheatcroft and Mark Hubbard.


Ball Ground, Ga.: Matt NeSmith was the hottest player of any sectional Monday, running away with medalist honors at Hawks Ridge GC. NeSmith, who plays for the University of South Carolina, carded 17 birdies and an eagle across 36 holes, cruising to a four-shot win over University of Georgia standout Lee McCoy.

Veteran Roberto Castro grabbed the third and final spot, edging out his brother Franco by a shot. Former LSU teammates Smylie Kaufman and Stewart Jolly missed out, as did U.S. Amateur Four-Ball champ Todd White.


Newport Beach, Calif.: Kevin Lucas made only two bogeys across 36 holes to take medalist honors, two shots clear of a trio that included University of Texas standout Beau Hossler, who contended at the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic. Hossler shared second place with Jared Becher and amateur Jake Knapp, while spots also went to the University of Illinois’ Brian Campbell along with Josh Anderson and Alex Kim.

Those on the outside included Patrick Cantlay, Jason Gore and Max Homa, while Fred Couples withdrew before play began.


Cle Elum, Wash.: The day’s final qualifier produced a trio of University of Washington products, each of whom will have plenty of support at Chambers Bay. The list is led by standout Cheng-Tsung Pan, who earned medalist honors with two straight rounds of 1-under 69, while the other two spots went to another pair of Huskies, Richard Lee and Troy Kelly.

Those missing out included University of Oregon head coach Casey Martin, who came up five shots short.

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After Further Review: Nelson lost in the shuffle?

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 3:40 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the Nelson's future ...

If the goal was “different” by bringing the AT&T Byron Nelson to Trinity Forest, consider it achieved. But bringing a world-class field south of Dallas could still be tricky.

Yes, the tournament can always rely on local resident and AT&T spokesman Jordan Spieth to throw his hat in the ring. But even with Spieth strolling the fairways this week, the field strength was among the worst all season for a full-point event.

The debut of the sprawling, links-like layout likely did little to sway the undecideds, with only the third round offering the challenging conditions that course co-designer Ben Crenshaw had envisioned. And the schedule won’t do them any favors next year, as a revamped itinerary likely puts the Nelson right before the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.

The course will inevitably get better with age, and Spieth expects positive word of mouth to spread. But it might be a while before the stars truly align for an event that, for the moment, feels lost in the shuffle of a hectic schedule. – Will Gray


On Jordan Spieth's putting ...

Jordan Spieth’s putting is plainly bad right now, but it isn’t going to stay this bad forever.

He is the second ranked player on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, just like he was last year. This putting slump has lingered, but it’s unfathomable to think this guy just forgot how to putt.

Sooner rather than later he’s going to remember he’s Jordan Spieth and the 40-footers are going to start pouring in. He’ll be telling Greller to go get the ball because he’s too far away and the tee is in the other direction.

Bottom line, the ball striking is for real and the putting slump will pass. He’ll win soon – maybe even as soon as this week. – Nick Menta


On golf and gambling ...

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court over tuned a federal ban on sports betting in most states, a move the PGA Tour and many professional sports leagues embraced as a tool to both build fan interest and grow revenue.

Experts estimate sports betting could become a $150-$200 billion annual industry, and even a small piece of that could be significant for golf, but there will be risks.

Unlike any other sport, golf is played on multiple fields simultaneously, which inherently creates risks when gambling is introduced to the equation. Although the Tour has gone to great pains to head off any potential problems, like all bets gambling comes with great rewards, and great risks. – Rex Hoggard

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Wise continues whirlwind ascent with first win

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 3:13 am

DALLAS – Still shy of his 22nd birthday, Aaron Wise continues to prove himself to be a quick learner.

Wise went from unheralded prospect to NCAA individual champ seemingly in the blink of an eye while at the University of Oregon. After eschewing his final two years of eligibility in Eugene, he won in Canada on the Mackenzie Tour in his third start as a professional.

He continued a quick learning curve with a win last year on the Web.com Tour to propel him to the big leagues, and he didn’t flinch while going toe-to-toe with Jason Day two weeks ago, even though the result didn’t go his way.

Faced with another opportunity to take down a top-ranked Aussie, Wise made sure he got the job done Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson – even though it took until dark.

With mid-day rains turning a firm and fast layout into a birdie barrage, Wise seamlessly switched gears and put his first PGA Tour title on ice in impressive fashion with a bogey-free 65. Deadlocked with Marc Leishman to start the day, Wise made six birdies in his first 10 holes and coasted to a three-shot win as the leaders barely beat the setting sun to avoid an anticlimactic Monday finish at Trinity Forest Golf Club.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


As it turned out, the hardest part of the day was enduring the four-hour weather delay alongside his mother, Karla, as his afternoon tee time turned into a twilight affair.

“She was talking to me in the hotel about what a win could mean, what a second could mean, kind of taking me through all that,” Wise said. “I was like, I’ve got to calm down. I can’t just sit here. I said, ‘You’ve got to go.’ I kind of made her leave the room.”

Wise displayed some jitters right out of the gates, with a nervy three-putt par on the opening hole. But with several players going on birdie runs to turn what seemed like a two-man race into a much more wide-open affair, Wise went on a tear of his own with four birdies in a row on Nos. 7-10.

That gave him a window over Leishman and the rest of the chase pack, and he never looked back.

“I talked to myself and kind of made myself trust my putting,” Wise said. “These greens out here are really tricky, and for me to roll those putts in on 8 and 9 really kind of separated things.”

Leishman had held at least a share of the lead after each round, and the 34-year-old veteran was looking for his third win in the last 14 months. But a bogey on No. 10 coincided with a Wise birdie to boost the rookie’s advantage from two shots to four, and Leishman never got closer than three shots the rest of the way.

“He holed putts he needed to hole, and I didn’t,” Leishman said. “Hit a couple loose shots where I could have probably put a bit of pressure on him, and didn’t. And that’s probably the difference in the end.”

Instead of sitting next to a trophy in Dallas, Wise could have been closing out his senior season next week with an NCAA appearance at Karsten Creek. But the roots of his quick climb trace back to the Master of the Amateurs in Australia in December 2015, a tournament he won and one that gave him confidence that he could hold his own against the best in the world. He returned to Eugene and promptly told his coach, Casey Martin, that he planned to turn pro in the spring.

The same dogged confidence that drove that decision has been the guiding force behind a whirlwind ascent through every rung of the professional ladder.

“I just have a lot of belief in myself. I didn’t come from a lot. A lot of people don’t know that. I didn’t get to travel a bunch when I played junior golf,” Wise said. “Kind of all along it’s been very, very few moments to shine and I have had to take advantage of them.”

Despite that belief, even Wise admits that he’s “shocked” to turn only his second real chance to contend at this level into a maiden victory. But fueled by the memories of a close call two weeks ago, he put the lessons learned at Quail Hollow to quick use while taking the next step in an increasingly promising career arc.

“It was awesome, everything I dreamed of,” Wise said. “To walk up 18, knowing I kind of had it locked up, was pretty cool.”

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Grace celebrates birthday with final-round 62

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:51 am

DALLAS – Branden Grace celebrated his 30th birthday in style, making the biggest charge of the final round at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Grace closed out a 9-under 62 as the sun began to set at Trinity Forest Golf Club, moving from outside the top 10 into a share of third place, four shots behind Aaron Wise. It equaled Grace’s career low on the PGA Tour, which he originally set last summer at The Open, and it was one shot off Marc Leishman’s course-record 61 from the opening round.

“Good birthday present. It was fun,” Grace said. “Little bit of imagination, little bit of luck here and there. You get more luck on the links golf course than maybe on a normal golf course.”


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


Weeks after Grace’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, he now has his best result on the PGA Tour since winning the RBC Heritage more than two years ago. As a world traveler and former Presidents Cup participant, the South African embraced an opportunity this week to go off the beaten path on an unconventional layout.

“It feels like a breath of fresh air coming to something different. Really is nice. I really enjoyed the golf course,” he said. “Obviously I think we got really lucky with the weather, and that’s why the scores are so low. It can bite you if it settles in a little bit in the next couple years.”

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Scott barely misses qualifying for U.S. Open

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:33 am

DALLAS – A birdie on the 72nd hole gave Adam Scott a glimmer of hope, but in the end even a closing 65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson wasn’t enough to earn an exemption into next month’s U.S. Open.

Scott entered the week ranked No. 65 in the world, and the top 60 in next week’s rankings automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills. The cutoff was a big reason why the 2008 tournament champ returned for Trinity Forest’s debut, and midway through the final round it seemed like the Aussie had a shot at snagging a bid at the 11th hour.

Scott needed at least a solo ninth-place finish to pass an idle Chesson Hadley at No. 60, and while his 5-footer on the 18th green gave him a share of sixth place when he completed play, he ultimately ended up in a three-way tie for ninth at 15 under – barely short of a spot in the top 60.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“I tried to make the most of really favorable conditions today, and I did a pretty good job of it. Just never really got a hot run going,” Scott said. “I feel like I struggled on the weekend reading the greens well enough to really get it going, but I think everyone but the leaders did that, too. They’re not the easiest greens to read.”

Scott has played each of the last three weeks in an effort to earn a U.S. Open exemption, and he’ll make it four in a row next week when he returns to the Fort Worth Invitational on a course where he won in 2013. Scott still has another chance to avoid sectional qualifying by earning a top-60 spot at the second and final cutoff on June 11 following the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Scott has played 67 majors in a row, a streak that dates back to 2001 and is second only to Sergio Garcia among active players. While he’s prepared to play each of the next three weeks in a last-ditch effort to make the field, he’s taking his schedule one event at a time with the hope that one more good result might take care of business.

“I’ll play next week and hopefully play really well, and give myself a bit of cushion so I can take a week or so off and try to prepare the best I can for the U.S. Open,” Scott said.