Today was a somewhat surprising day as far as U.S. Open qualifying is concerned. Across the country, hundreds of hopefuls teed it up at 12 sites to earn a coveted spot in the U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links (two international sites saw action in May). Many advanced. Perhaps the larger story, however, are those that didn't make the cut.
Fresh off their one-two finish at the Memorial, neither Justin Rose or Rickie Fowler actually made it through sectional qualifying. A little jaw-dropping that someone can win a PGA Tour event and the next day not top a field of U.S. Open hopefuls? Definitely. But that's the allure of golf: You never know what a particular day on the links will bring.
It's a feat in itself to even make it to a U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier. This year, the USGA accepted 9,052 entries, the second-most entries in the event's 110-year history. After that, those golfers enter 18-hole U.S. Open Local Qualifying at one of 111 sites. Make it past that, and the last thing standing in a golfer's way is that pesky Sectional, a 36-hole day that produces the final players in the U.S. Open field.
I've attended some of these sectional qualifiers, and it's both an amazing and weird cross-section of players. You have your young outstanding amateurs, like a Rickie -- circa 2008 -- and Joseph Bramlett, with their dad or buddy (or nobody) on the bag. In the same group you may have a Vijay Singh or other pro who fell below the top 50 mark (Vijay, incidentally, earned a coveted exemption to avoid qualifying this year) with his PGA Tour caddie complete with white jumpsuit and bib. Don't forget your Tony Romo or other famous athlete, setting aside their lifeblood for a moment to pursue their passion for the sticks.
Here's some names you definitely know who teed it up in Sectionals today (click here for the full list of sites and qualifiers):
Tom Kite (Colorado): DID NOT QUALIFY. Kite tied for third at his qualifier today, shooting 69-68--137, 7 under par. Kite actually won the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble. It's unfortunate they only took two from this site, Kite would've been fun to watch.
Corey Pavin (Illinois): DID NOT QUALIFY. The 2010 Ryder Cup captain and 1995 U.S. Open winner secured a Second Alternate standing with his fourth-place finish (70-71--141), but fell three strokes short of qualifying.
Jason Gore (Maryland): QUALIFIED! The 1997 California State Amateur champion, current PGA Tour pro and Valencia resident tied for medalist honors at his qualifying site, shooting 72-64--136. Truly nice guy to boot. He's one to root for.
Tony Romo (Texas): DID NOT QUALIFY. The Dallas Cowboys go-to withdrew after a second rain delay at his site pushed the qualifier to tomorrow. He gave it a great shot.
Colin Montgomerie (England): DID NOT QUALIFY. Wonder why, karma perhaps? No comment.
Eric Axley, Stuart Appleby, Bo Van Pelt, Tom Lehman, Ben Curtis, Aaron Baddeley, Davis Love III, and John Mallinger (Ohio): QUALIFIED! This motley crew of big names (including Long Beach native Mallinger) are going to the open. In their wake include (among many other known names) Rocco Mediate, Kevin Sutherland, Jonathan Byrd, Tim Petrovic, D.J. Trahan, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Kevin Streelman, Bill Haas, Charley Hoffman, Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes, Jeff Maggert, Woody Austin, and Jay Haas. Wow.
Spencer Levin, Charlie Wi and David Berganio (Sacramento): DID NOT QUALIFY. This California trio collectively missed the boat, and were really not even close to qualifying. It happens.
In the amateur circuit, the No. 2 amateur in the world, Nick Taylor, failed to qualify in Portland, while Saratoga's Joseph Bramlett did make it through at the Sacramento site (go Joseph!). Bakersfield's Bhavik Patel lost in a playoff at that Sacramento site.
After seeing all of the golfers that missed the cut, it gives a little different appreciation for the talent that did make it to the Open, doesn't it?