Dufner among long list of qualifiers for US Open
By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Jason Dufner is going back to the U.S. Open for the 10th straight year, and this time he had to play his way in through one of 10 qualifiers across three countries Monday in the longest day in golf.
Luke Guthrie took a detour from the Web.com Tour and led the 14 qualifiers out of Columbus, the strongest of all sectionals with so many PGA Tour players who stayed around after the Memorial. He returns to the U.S. Open for the first time in five years.
He arrived from the Web event in North Carolina a little past midnight. He was headed to South Carolina on Tuesday morning to resume his Web schedule. And then he had to find a place to stay for the U.S. Open.
“I told my wife, ‘It might cost us $1,000 a night.’ But it’s Pebble Beach. Who cares?” Guthrie said.
The U.S. Open is June 13-16, the sixth time it is being held at Pebble Beach. Also qualifying from Columbus was Sam Saunders, whose late grandfather Arnold Palmer was among the principal owners of Pebble Beach.
Sixty spots were available at eight sites in the U.S., one in Canada and one in England. Fifteen players previously made it through 36-hole qualifiers in Dallas and Japan.
Dufner finished with a double bogey at the Memorial to fall into a tie for seventh, and then headed to Scioto some 12 hours later for 36 more holes. He was bogey-free at the tougher of the courses, and held on for a 71 at Brookside. He had been exempt for his previous nine appearances in the U.S. Open.
“All the way back to Rickie Fowler’s rookie year if that tells you anything,” Dufner said.
The clutch moment from Ohio came from Kyoung-Hoon Lee, who birdied the 18th hole at Scioto to make it an even 14 players to finish at 5 under or better. If he had made par, there would have been an 8-for-1 playoff for the last spot.
Instead, seven players went extra holes to determine the first alternate out of the sectional. That went to Joel Dahmen, and odds are he will be at Pebble Beach. The U.S. Open is holding six spots for anyone who might get into the top 60 in the world after next week.
Also in the group at 5 under: former world No. 1 Luke Donald, who will play his first U.S. Open since 2016.
Anirban Lahiri of India did not have to qualify for his previous two U.S. Opens, and he doesn’t want to have to go through it again. Lahiri had no trouble with a 65 at Scioto and a 67 at Brookside, but he could do without the stress. He had never seen either course, opting for what he called “point and shoot.”
“Playing this is a grind,” Lahiri said. “The Memorial is a tough event. You get off the course and you’re pretty beat up, physically and mentally. And then you have to keep going for 36 holes. I didn’t keep a yardage book because I didn’t want the mental work.”
Among those missing out was Steve Stricker, the 52-year-old old Ryder Cup captain, who had made it through qualifying each of the last two years. In his threesome were Julian Suri and Kelby Brown, a local qualifier from Texas who shot 84 at Scioto and 92 at Brookside, missing out by 39 shots.
A pair of college stars made it against a field of mostly PGA Tour players — Cal senior Collin Morikawa and Stanford senior Brandon Wu, who is on a roll. Wu won his match to help Stanford win the NCAA title five days ago in Arkansas. He flew to Ohio to get ready for the qualifier, returns to Arkansas for the Palmer Cup this week and then plays his first U.S. Open.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” Wu said. “It’s starting to sink in. Graduation is on Sunday of the U.S. Open. The idea is to make the cut, and then maybe wear my cap and gown down the 18th fairway.”
Dean Burmester of South Africa had rounds of 63-65 at Walton Heath to lead 14 players in the qualifier at England. Others who made it to Pebble Beach are Sam Horsfield of England, Thomas Pieters of Belgium and Renato Paratore of Italy, who earned the last spot in a 5-for-1 playoff with a birdie on the second hole.
Lee Westwood missed the playoff by three shots. It will be the second straight year Westwood does not qualify for the U.S. Open, after playing 11 straight years.
LSU senior Luis Gagne earned one of three spots at Streamsong Resort with rounds of 65-69 to earn a return to the U.S. Open. Gagne, a 21-year-old from Costa Rica, shared low amateur honors last year at Shinnecock Hills with Massachusetts firefighter Matt Parziale.
Callus Tarren of England led the qualifiers at 14-under 132. Also qualifying was Guillermo Pereira.
Parziale, who qualified last year as the U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and tied for 48th, gets to return to Pebble Beach. He had rounds of 69-73 in Purchase, New York, to get one of the four spots. Cameron Young, a senior at Wake Forest whose father is the head pro at Sleepy Hollow, led the qualifiers at 4-under 137. Joining them were Andy Pope and Rob Oppenheim.
Tom Hoge and Sepp Straka led four qualifiers in the first U.S. Open sectional held in Canada. It was moved to Rattlesnake Point Golf Club from Memphis, Tennessee, because of a change in the PGA Tour schedule that puts the Canadian Open a week before the U.S. Open.
Nate Lashley and Alex Prugh advanced in a 3-for-2 playoff, with Harris English the first alternate. Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington finished with eight straight pars and missed the playoff by two shots.
Ollie Schniederjans made it through qualifying for the second straight year with rounds of 68-65 at Hawks Ridge outside Atlanta, leading four players to qualify. Roberto Castro made par on his last hole to avoid a playoff. The other qualifiers were a pair of amateurs, Noah Norton and Chandler Eaton.
Former Navy officer Billy Hurley III made it back to his first U.S. Open in three years in a tight qualifier at Woodmont Country Club outside Washington. Hurley had rounds of 70-71 to share medalist honors with Connor Arendell at 3-under 141. Joseph Bramlett, who played at Stanford, and Ryan Sullivan were one shot behind and survived a 3-for-2 playoff.
Brian Stuard prefers playing the other Ohio sectional even though it offers fewer spots, and he showed why. Stuard made it to his fifth U.S. Open, all five times qualifying from Springfield Country Club. He shared medalist honors at 6-under 134 with Zac Blair and Nick Hardy.
Brett Drewitt of Australia earned the last spot in a playoff over Joo-Young Lee.
Arizona State junior Chun An Yu of Taiwan qualified for the second straight year, and former U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad gets a return visit to Pebble Beach. Yu finished third at the NCAA Championship last week. He finished at 12-under 131 in Newport Beach, California. Hagestad, the low amateur in the 2017 Masters, reached the round of 16 in the U.S. Amateur last year at Pebble.
Former UConn player Eric Dietrich had 67-66 at Wine Valley Golf Club to win medalist honors by four shots. Matt Naumec and Oregon State sophomore Spencer Tibbits grabbed the final two spots.
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