COLUMBUS, Ohio – Each morning, Dan Putnam awakes and follows the well-worn path from his house in University Place, Wash., and around the former gravel pit and back home. All in, it’s a 4 1/2-mile journey.
In two weeks, the same journey along the shores of the Puget Sound will be a much more meaningful stroll.
On Monday at the U.S. Open sectional qualifying site in Columbus, Putnam’s son, PGA Tour player Michael, completed a circular journey of his own, scorching the course at the Lakes Golf & Country Club with an 8-under 64 for a share of medalist honors and a spot in the field at Chambers Bay, the links-like layout that frames those daily walks for Dan Putnam.
Putnam was born in Tacoma, Wash., and now lives in University Place, about a mile and half away from Chambers Bay. In fact, he was the first to play the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design and boasts that he briefly held the course record.
“I shot 70,” Putnam smiled. “Maybe that’s why they made it harder.”
But for Putnam, that 70 couldn’t compare to his afternoon round on Monday at the annual 36-hole marathon for U.S. Open hopefuls. After an early bogey at No. 2, he played his final 16 holes in 9 under, including an eagle at the par-5 third and three consecutive birdies starting at the 14th hole.
Putnam finished at 12-under 132 and tied with Sam Saunders, who carded matching rounds of 66 to earn his second start at the U.S. Open, for medalist honors.
Considering USGA executive director Mike Davis’ comments that players would need extra preparation to compete at this year’s championship, Putnam jokingly figured himself an early favorite.
“Apparently I’m going to win because I’ve played it more than anyone else,” laughed Putnam, who estimated he’s played Chambers Bay 40 times.
Putnam will also have the advantage of having his brother, Joel, caddying for him at the U.S. Open. Joel Putnam worked at Chambers Bay as a caddie and has looped more than 500 rounds on the rolling course.
He will be joined at the year’s second major by Bryson Dechambeau, the NCAA individual champion who held the lead for much of the day after making birdie at five of his first six holes in his afternoon round, but cooled following an hour and a half weather delay.
“I got off to a hot start and that kind of propelled me,” said Dechambeau, who carded rounds of 66-67 to tie for third place with David Hearn. “I knew my game was good enough, it was just about believing and trusting myself.”
Putnam also struggled with the delay with players at the Lakes course unable to warm up before play resumed, but at least he avoided the five-players-for-three-spots playoff at Brookside Golf & Country Club that lasted past 9:30 p.m.
D.A. Points, Robert Streb, Alex Cejka, Kevin Chappell and Danny Lee finished tied for 13th place at 7 under par. At the first extra hole, Brookside’s par-4 opener, Cejka needed five strokes to reach the green and was eliminated.
After trading pars at the second extra hole, No. 9 at Brookside, the group returned to No. 1 where Chappell three-putted for bogey, missing his par attempt from 1 1/2 feet, and will be the Columbus site’s first alternate.
The group finished the event in almost complete darkness after all four players agreed to play on.
But then it could have been much worse. Monday’s forecast in Columbus called for an 80 percent chance of severe thunderstorms throughout the day and players arrived for their first-round tee times braced for a long day.
“I told myself, ‘Man, you need to get off to a good start because this might be an 18-hole deal,’” said Bo Van Pelt, who finished tied with five players at 8 under to earn his ninth trip to the U.S. Open. “We weren’t sure how much we’d get in.”
The foreboding forecast prompted many players (28) to withdraw before play began on Monday, and after the weather warning horn sounded at 4:45 p.m. (ET) another 39 bolted.
For a handful of those who did challenge the woeful forecast and a long day, however, the reward is a trip to Chambers Bay. For Putnam, it’s a trip home.
“This has got to be up with one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” Putnam said.