Qualifying Statement

By John FeinsteinMay 24, 2011, 7:03 pm

On a rainy morning in London six years ago, Michael Campbell’s alarm clock went off shortly after dawn. Tired, not very happy with his golf game, he turned it off and decided he was going back to sleep. When his wife Julie realized what he was doing she reminded him that he had a tee time that morning at Walton Heath to play in a qualifier for the U.S. Open.

 

Campbell shook his head. There really wasn’t much point, he figured, in grinding through 36 holes. Julie was insistent. It was a major championship. You can sleep tomorrow. Reluctantly, Campbell listened to his wife, got out of bed and dragged himself to the golf course.

 

Late that afternoon, he made a 6-foot birdie putt on the 36th hole to qualify for the Open. A month later, at Pinehurst, he held Tiger Woods off down the stretch and became a major champion, a victory that turned his career in the right direction and cemented his place in the golfing pantheon forever.

 

It never would have happened if he didn’t get out of bed for the qualifier.

 

On Monday, Sergio Garcia did not play a British Open qualifier in Dallas because of an infected fingernail. In this day and age of instant communication, he sent out a tweet announcing to the golf world that he just couldn’t finish the qualifier saying he “couldn’t grip a club.”

 

It is very difficult to question an athlete when injured. Only they know exactly how much pain they can handle. Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg asked to be removed from a game against the Philadelphia Phillies last summer because he felt some soreness in his pitching elbow. Rob Dibble, then the Nationals TV analyst, questioned Strasburg’s toughness. Two days later, the team announced Strasburg would undergo Tommy John surgery and be out for more than a year. Soon after that the team announced that Dibble was also out – forever.

 

Garcia showed up, played five holes and withdrew. At the very least his intentions were good. As it turned out, the qualifier was reduced to 18 holes because of rain and Jerry Kelly won a 6-for-1 playoff among players who finished at 3 under par for the last of the six spots. Garcia was even par when he quit. Maybe he really was in serious pain.

 

It will be interesting to see if Garcia tees it up Thursday at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, where he is a past champion. He has said that, even though he is entered in a U.S. Open qualifier in two weeks he intends to try to play his way into the field without qualifying. That would mean getting his world ranking up from 73 to 50 or better by the close of golf business June 12.

 

Based on recent results, good luck Sergio. Let’s see how quickly he recovers from that infected fingernail.

 

There’s no blaming a player for not wanting to get out of bed to play a 36-hole qualifier, whether it be for the British Open or the U.S. Open. If you’re an established player – especially if you are someone who has been a star – being in a qualifier means you haven’t been playing very well. Vijay Singh, once the No. 1 player in the world, who hasn’t missed a major championship since 1994 and is in the World Golf Hall of Fame, is currently in that predicament. He is entered in the U.S. Open qualifier set for June 6. Bet he shows up.

 

The guys who get the game, who understand that golf is unforgiving but that playing in a major championship is a gift show up for qualifiers no matter how much they want to stay in bed on a rainy morning.

 

Arnold Palmer played in U.S. Open qualifiers late in his career when he was no longer exempt. So did Greg Norman. Garcia has won seven times on the PGA Tour. Palmer won seven majors.

 

On Monday, while Garcia nursed his fingernail, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III – who will be in the Hall of Fame someday – showed up and played the British Open qualifier (as he has done successfully in the past) and made it into the field at Royal St. George’s where he nearly won the championship in 2003.

 

The qualifiers are an important part of the two Opens. They give everyone a chance to play their way into a major championship. The stories that come out of them are frequently as good or better than the stories from the tournaments themselves.

 

In recent years, the U.S. Golf Association and the R&A have tried to make it easier for players who have to go through qualifying by setting up qualifers overseas. Once, you had to travel to the U.S. to qualify for the U.S. Open and to Great Britain to qualify for the British. That’s no longer the case.

 

Campbell isn’t the only player to survive qualifying and win. Steve Jones did it in 1996 at Oakland Hills. Rocco Mediate didn’t win in 2008 at Torrey Pines but he lost one of the most memorable playoffs in U.S. Open history to Tiger Woods. When Ben Hogan won the only British Open he ever played in back in 1953, he played in a 36-hole qualifier because everyone had to qualify. Arnold Palmer did the same thing in 1960. Both men had won The Masters and U.S. Open to start the year.

 

Those were the rules back then. Hogan followed them and so did Palmer. Nowadays the rules give players numerous different ways to get into either Open without qualifying. But if you aren’t exempt, the qualifier is still there as an opportunity, not an albatross.

 

Sure, the weather is likely to be hot or rainy. Sure you might find yourself paired with someone you’ve never heard of before. It is one day out of a very privileged life with a huge potential payback.

 

Let’s hope that Garcia and Singh show up for their U.S. Open qualifiers along with all the other good players who will be at the various sectional qualifiers that will be played in two weeks. As Tom Kite once said about Americans who skipped the British Open because they found the travel inconvenient: “It’s a major championship and you can’t win it unless you show up to play in it.”

 

That’s true, even if you have to show up early. Ask Michael Campbell.

Getty Images

Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

Getty Images

Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

Getty Images

Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

Getty Images

Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."