Golf Tidbits: Open qualifiers full of drama

There are many things in sports given interesting and sometimes obvious nicknames. The latest was Monday, which was deemed, "Golf's longest day."

Not really sure the day needed a nickname, but here we are. On Monday, there were 11 qualifying sites for the U.S. Open. Over 800 players battled for 57 spots in the field at the U.S. Open Championship June 13-16 at Merion.

Everyone had to complete 36 holes, then sit and wait to see if their score was good enough.

Before the bulk of the players got to that point, there was plenty of drama. Several PGA Tour players withdrew from their qualifiers for various and sundry reasons.

A tweaked back here, a sore shoulder there. A bad first round was enough for some, but they no doubt came up with some injury excuse.

And there was the curious case of Lee Janzen. The two-time U.S. Open champion was going to struggle to qualify after a first-round 75. He never got the chance to shoot the 64 or better he would have needed to shoot to qualify.

Janzen was wearing metals spikes in his golf shoes, which was against the rules at the qualifier in Maryland, where he was playing.

Have a nice afternoon off, sir, you're disqualified.

With Golf Channel covering all 11 qualifiers, viewers got to see Temple University freshman Brandon Matthews make a crucial decision. His approach on his final hole stopped against a tree.

Knowing he was close to qualifying, Matthews took an unplayable lie penalty, which was a gutsy move. He followed that by chipping in for par.

Matthews celebrated like he just won the U.S. Open. Unfortunately, he finished solo fifth, at a qualifier in which there were just four qualifying spots available. Matthews did gain alternate status, so his dream of playing his first U.S. Open isn't completely dead yet.

He was done in by fellow amateur Gavin Hall, who birdied his last four holes to qualify for the Open.

There were at least three players who had holes-in-one. Too many players to name dropped a shot or two in their last few holes to fall out of a qualifying spot.

Was the day nickname worthy? Not really, but it's still a little better than "Glory's last shot," the PGA Championship slogan.

Monday equated to the pressure of PGA Tour Q School. One shot here or there means the world to one person, or 19 people at the same time.

There were a plethora of unique storylines of those that played Monday. In the end, you may learn some of them. Some that you won't hear are just as remarkable.

Now that golf's longest day is complete, the nine-day wait for the season's second major championship becomes the longest wait.

In the meantime, enjoy this week's PGA Tour stop in Memphis, Tenn. Maybe one of those who failed to qualify on Monday can win that event and make it to Merion after all.

That's some pressure.


Matt Kuchar picked up his second PGA Tour win of the season on Sunday and clearly added his name to those who should contend next week at the U.S. Open.

Winning twice in one season will do that for a player, especially when those wins come at a World Golf Championship event and at the Memorial.

Kuchar's win last week was born from a stellar statistical week and a runner- up finish the week before.

The 34-year-old led the field at the Memorial in greens in regulation, sand saves, fewest bogeys and fewest double bogeys. He was second in strokes gained putting and shared second in most birdies made.

Toss in that he was 23rd in putts per green in regulation and tied for 37th in driving accuracy, it isn't hard to see how he walked off with the title.

But don't count him among the favorites for the U.S. Open just yet. As good as he was at Memorial, his season stats are not as eye-popping.

Kuchar is 71st in greens in regulation, 134th in driving accuracy and just 161st in total driving, a combination of driving accuracy and distance.

The sixth victory of his PGA Tour career was a big one for Kuchar. It will give him confidence heading to Merion for the U.S. Open, but will that be false hope?

It seems as though he has the game to win a major, but his stats don't back that up. He'll have to rely on his putter if he wants to make noise at the year's second major.


* One unique story from Monday was the case of Australian Scott Gardiner. His clubs were lost by his airline en route to his qualifier, so he scraped together a set. He fired a 65 in the morning, but stumbled to a 74 on a different course in the afternoon. Between rounds, he said in a Golf Channel interview that he would keep using the mismatched set in the afternoon even if his clubs were delivered to the other course. A 65 with foreign clubs is impressive stuff indeed.

* As for Tiger Woods' tough week at the Memorial? It's a non-issue to me, and helps lower his expectations heading into the U.S. Open. Imagine if he won Memorial for his fifth win of the season. Everyone would have anticipated him winning at Merion by 5-10 shots. Now, the storyline is closer to he's struggling versus he'll crush everyone. Remember, he hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.