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Sleepless Levin stuck outside U.S. Open

The world's top 60 golfers make the U.S. Open. Spencer Levin is 61st.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- To say Spencer Levin woke up Monday to the bad news that he was the 61st-ranked golfer in the world, one spot shy of automatic qualification for this month's U.S. Open, would not be totally accurate.


Levin really didn't sleep much at all.


The leader after three rounds at the prestigious Memorial Tournament, Levin struggled over the final nine holes of his round on Championship Sunday at the Memorial, shooting 4-over on the back nine at Muirfield Village and losing a lead -- and his chance at his first PGA Tour win -- on Sunday for the second time this year.


Some guy named Tiger Woods won the event, and Levin finished in a tie for fourth. Had he finished third, he would have cracked the top 60 in the rankings and qualified for the U.S. Open at Olympic in San Francisco, a course the California native knows well.


Instead, Levin had to play 36 holes Monday at two other Columbus-area courses in the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier Monday. A field of 132 entered the Columbus event, with the top 16 gaining a spot in the U.S. Open.


Levin wasn't close. He shot 72-74, finishing 5-over for the day and in a tie for 51st place.


Unlike last Thursday when Phil Mickelson took his ball -- and his private plane -- and went home after one bad round at the Memorial, Levin doesn't know where he's going next. He said Monday afternoon that he doesn't know if he'll play this week's PGA Tour event in Memphis because he's not sure if his best way to Olympic is try, again, to play his way in or sit out and take his chances.


"I don't know how it's going to work," Levin said. "Sometimes if you don't play a week you can move up a spot. I still have to try to figure that all out. This morning my caddy was having someone figure out those scenarios.


"I wanted to play in this U.S. Open and who knows, I still might. I'd have to play really well if I play next week. The world rankings are hard to figure sometimes. If I have to play next week I might have to finish in the top 10 again.


"I definitely want to play in that U.S. Open. Olympic is like my favorite course."


The free-swinging, 27-year-old Levin said fatigue probably played a factor in his Monday struggles. He said he didn't really sleep Saturday night, either, when his round of 69 propelled him to a lead of one shot over Rory Sabbatini, three over Rickie Fowler and four over Woods.


"Saturday night I didn't sleep at all and that sucked," Levin said. "(Sunday) night I couldn't sleep, either, so I've been up now for I don't even know how long.


"I was a little nervous but not really. I don't know what it was. Normally I sleep fine."


Levin led by six shots after three rounds in February at the Phoenix Open before he fell apart and finished third, tying the third-largest blown lead in PGA history. He said he really didn't sleep then, either.


"I still had a good week (at the Memorial)," he said. "I had the lead with nine holes to go, and anytime you do that you're playing well. I got off to a bad start on the back nine and that cost me."


Though Monday's U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier was big business, it lacked the glitz and glamor of the Memorial, the tournament founded by Ohio State's greatest golfer, Jack Nicklaus. Admission was free and open, many players wore shorts and a day after TV cameras caught Levin grimacing on bunker shots, only a small gallery saw him repeatedly find the bunkers on Monday.


On the 18th tee at Ohio State's Scarlet Course Monday, Levin had to yell for the attention of an unknowing spectator who was wandering across the fairway. That's not something you see at Muirfield.


"I didn't want to be mean to him," Levin said. "I also didn't want him to get taken out by somebody's drive."


Charlie Wi ran away from the Columbus field Monday to win at -9, and other notable names who sewed up U.S. Open berths included D.A. Points and Davis Love III. Local favorite Ben Curtis finished in a tie for 25th, and Sabbatini finished even with Levin at 5-over.


What a difference a day made.


For Levin, it's an amazing difference one spot in the world rankings can make.


"This weekend was a big step for me," he said. "I was there in Phoenix, had a big lead. I lost a playoff last year at Bay Hill. I've had my chances. I just hope the next time I'm there I can get it put away because I think if I win one, I can take it and take off from there."