U.S. captain Davis Love III won’t have to watch potential Ryder Cup players on television at the U.S. Open on television. He’ll be playing alongside them.
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Love qualified for the U.S. Open for the third time in the last six years with a 2-under 139 at Scioto Country Club and Ohio State’s Scarlet Course.
Even more stunning is that Casey Martin and his cart will be there, too. A full day of U.S. Open qualifying on Monday ended in Oregon with Martin, now the 40-year-old golf coach at Oregon University, making a 5-foot par putt on his last hole to earn a spot next week at Olympic, where in 1998 he tied for 23rd while riding in a cart. Martin has a rare circulatory disorder in his right leg, and he eventually won his lawsuit against the PGA Tour to ride.
Love, who finished tied for 16th at the Memorial on Sunday, said it never crossed his mind to go home rather than extend an already long week by playing 36 more holes.
”No. Like last year, statistically I hit the ball well enough at the U.S. and the British to win,” he said. ”I definitely want to play.”
The 48-year-old Love has won 20 tournaments around the world, including the 1997 PGA Championship. He continues to play well, despite fighting off injuries, family obligations and an entire generation of younger players.
He was among 16 players to qualify from the biggest of the 11 sectional qualifying sites across the country on Monday.
The U.S. Open is June 14-17 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, and the 48-year-old Love will be making his 23rd appearance in his national open. Others who qualified from Scioto and Scarlet included medalist Charlie Wi, Kevin Streelman, D.A. Points, Rod Pampling and Steve Marino, who only last week returned from a four-month break to recovery from a bad shoulder.
Love still hasn’t forgotten the details from a year ago, however, when he three-putted the last hole he played at Colonial that cost him an automatic spot in the Open at Congressional. He had to go through qualifying to get in the field.
”I seem to play well in the qualifying because I don’t have a scoreboard to look at,” he said. ”You just play.”
Love has been in captain mode off and on since being selected for the matches this fall. He has been assessing potential players for the American side and has played with several. One of them, former British Open champ Ben Curtis, was in his threesome on Monday, although Curtis faded on his second 18 and failed to make the Open field.
Perhaps the biggest cheer of the day came as darkness was falling at Scioto Country Club.
On the fourth playoff hole to decide the last qualifiers, 42-year-old Youngstown, Ohio, teaching pro Dennis Miller’s 20-foot putt from the fringe stopped on the lip of the cup. After the gallery of a few hundred groaned and Miller slowly started to walk to his ball, if fell – touching off a huge celebration.
Now Miller, a third alternate whose name did not even appear on the tee sheet, will be playing in his first U.S. Open – and will likely have to get someone to fill in for him back at the course at Mill Creek Metroparks in Youngstown.
”I can’t believe what just happened,” Miller said. ”That was pretty incredible.”
Among those who did not qualify were two of the contenders at Jack Nicklaus’ tournament.
Rory Sabbatini shot a 70 in his first 18 at Scarlet, but sagged to a 76 in the afternoon to fall short. Spencer Levin, who could have earned an automatic berth in the Open had he finished in the top two instead of tying for fourth at the Memorial, followed a 72 at Scioto with a 74 at Scarlet.
Levin still has a chance to make the U.S. Open if he can crack the top 60 in the world after this week.
Wi was the medalist by three strokes. He opened with a 7-under-par 65 at Scarlet and followed up with a 67 at Scioto.
In other qualifiers Monday: Shane Bertsch was medalist and received one of seven spots at Woodmont Country Club, Rockville Maryland. Bertsch has played only one other U.S. Open in his career, which also was at Olympic Club in 1998 when he missed the cut. Also qualifying were Michael Thompson (142), Paul Claxton (143), Cole Howard (143), Darron Stiles (143), Nicholas Thompson (143) and Jeff Curl (143). Howard and Thompson were alternates out of 18-hole local qualifying last month.
Curl is the son of Rod Curl, the first full-blooded Native American to win a PGA Tour event.
At Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Tim Herron grabbed one of two spots available at Village Links. Herron tied for 53rd in the 1998 U.S. Open the last time it was played at Olympic.
At Lecanto, Florida, Scott Langley made it through local and sectional qualify for the second time in three years. Langley made his U.S. Open debut as an amateur at Pebble Beach in 2010 and tied for 16th to share low-amateur honors. Brooks Koepka earned the last spot in a playoff over 14-year-old Andy Zhang of China, who was bidding to become the youngest ever in the U.S. Open.
Brice Garnett was medalist and earned one of two spots from Springfield Country Club, Springfield, Ohio. It will be PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
At Canoe Brook, New Jersey, all four spots went to players who had to make it through 18-hole local qualifying and 36-hole sectional qualifying. Leading the way was Cameron Wilson, an amateur who shot 65 on the North course in the afternoon.
Bob Estes returns to the U.S. Open for only the second time in the last five years. Estes shot 138 at Houston’s Lakeside Country Club to get one of three spots. Alistair Presnell of Australia and Brian Rowell earned the last two spots in a 4-for-2 playoff.
At Suwanee, Georgia, Jason Bohn was the medalist and got one of three spots.