Published June 06, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Sergio Garcia changed his mind about U.S. Open qualifying and it paid off Monday when he earned a spot at Congressional by surviving a seven-man playoff.
Vijay Singh also changed his mind and didn't show up in Columbus for the 36-hole qualifier, meaning he will miss a major championship for the first time in 17 years.
Garcia, who has fallen to No. 75 in the world, said only last month that he wouldn't go through qualifying. He had rounds of 68-67 at Tunica National in Memphis, Tenn., then got one of the four spots in a playoff to extend his streak in the majors to 47 straight. This was the first time since turning pro in 1999 that Garcia had to qualify.
Singh's streak of 67 consecutive majors — dating to the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont — ended with his no-show. According to the PGA Tour's website, he is no longer part of the field at the St. Jude Classic, and there is no other way for him to get into the U.S. Open. The USGA has said it would not give a special exemption this year, as it did for the Fijian for last year's U.S. Open.
Those were the two biggest developments on a day of big hopes, with 11 sectional qualifiers in 10 states. No other major fills half its field with anyone willing to give it a try.
Among those who got into the U.S. Open, which starts June 16 at Congressional:
— Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, who made it through a playoff and is going to the U.S. Open for the first time. His grandfather won in 1960 at Cherry Hills, and Palmer tied for fifth in 1964 when the Open first went to Congressional.
— Steve Irwin, the son of three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin, was among four qualifiers in California.
— Fred Funk, who once was the golf coach at Maryland. He will be 55 on Tuesday of the U.S. Open, and he'll be in town as one of the 156 players in the field.
Just as noteworthy were some of the players who failed to qualify. The list included a trio of U.S. Open champions (Steve Jones, Lee Janzen and Tom Kite) and a trio of British Open champions (Justin Leonard, David Duval and Ben Curtis).
"It's entirely worth it," Duval said. "You can't win the golf tournament if you're not in it. So I guess I'm not going to win it this year."
There were alternates from each of the 11 sectional sites, and the order in which the USGA lists them will be critical. There now are 150 players in the U.S. Open, meaning six spots are available for anyone who cracks the top 50 in the world ranking this week — except for Woodland, only Ross Fisher (No. 54), J.B. Holmes (No. 55) and Steve Marino (No. 59) have an outside chance.
Also to be determined is whether Tiger Woods plays in the U.S. Open. A decision is expected this week.
UCLA freshman Patrick Cantlay was among the 16 qualifiers in Columbus, which offered the most spots because it had the biggest field that was filled mostly with PGA Tour players. Cantlay, who wrapped up a sensational first season that earned him the Jack Nicklaus Award as the top college player, had rounds of 65-70.
Brandt Jobe, a runner-up by one shot at the Memorial on Sunday, joined Chez Reavie as co-medalists in Columbus.
Others who qualified in Columbus were Robert Garrigus, Marc Turnesa, John Senden, D.A. Points, Marc Leishman, Kevin Chappell, Adam Long, Justin Hicks, Nick O'Hern and Chris Wilson. Tim Petrovic, Scott Hend and Webb Simpson were part of a six-man playoff for three spots. Among those who got bumped out of the playoff were former Ryder Cup players J.J. Henry and Brett Wetterich.
Gary Woodland called officials to withdraw. He moved up to No. 41 in the world ranking after his sixth-place finish at the Memorial, and is a lock to stay in the top 50 next week to get into the U.S. Open.
Several other tour players were in Memphis, where amateur Bud Cauley of Jacksonville, Fla., shared medalist honors with Sunghoon Kang, a tour rookie from South Korea.
This was the second time in three years that Funk has qualified. Among the other nine players who qualified in Rockville, Md., were Ty Tryon, three-time tour winner Kirk Triplett and former U.S. Amateur champion Bubba Dickerson.
In other qualifiers:
— Saunders earned his spot in Vero Beach, Fla., surviving a three-for-two playoff at Quail Valley Golf Club. Joey Lamielle was the medalist, while Michael Barbosa got the other playoff spot.
— Bennett Blakeman led three qualifiers in St. Charles, Ill. Among those who failed to get through was Scott Langley, last year's NCAA champion who tied for 16th in the U.S. Open last year and tied for low amateur.
— S.Y. Noh of South Korea, a rising star on the Asian Tour, earned one of two spots from Springfield, Ohio.
— In Ball Ground, Ga., Russell Henley earned the last of three spots by beating PGA Tour player Jason Dufner in a playoff at Hawk's Ridge Golf Club. Henley recently won a Nationwide Tour event as an amateur, and he tied for low amateur in the U.S. Open last year.
— At the Dallas Athletic Club, former British Open champion Todd Hamilton earned one of four spots. Harrison Frazar and Greg Chalmers got in through a three-for-two playoff, while Leonard missed it by two shots. Also missing was Jordan Spieth, a teenager who has made the cut the last two years in the Byron Nelson Championship.
— In New Jersey, Geoffrey Sisk led the four qualifiers from Canoe Brook, a group that included Alexander Rocha of Brazil and Matt Richardson of England, who lost his European Tour card four years ago.