Monday was one of the more underrated days in golf, when both pros and amateurs alike were on one simple mission: to qualify for the U.S. Open. U.S. Open sectional qualifying took place at multiple locations across the country, where the likes 15-year-old amateurs and major winners like Stewart Cink were all trying to punch their tickets to Chambers Bay. As you can imagine, there was plenty of thrill and heartbreak to go around. Here’s some of the best storylines from Monday’s action.
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Luke Donald hasn’t missed an appearance at the U.S. Open since 2004 and has played in the last 25 majors, but that streak looked in jeopardy on Monday. Donald opened his qualifying round with a 72, but came back strong in his second round, firing off seven birdies en route to a 68 to lock a spot in the 2015 U.S. Open with his qualifier at Bear’s Club in Florida.
"“It’s not something I’m very accustomed to but I haven’t played well enough in the last 18 months so my ranking slipped and I found myself in this position,” said Donald. “It’s a little heightened pressure playing in a place where you expect to do well but the advantage is you’re familiar with the course; you know where to miss it and not to miss it. Chambers Bay is going to be a little different as a links golf course and I’ve heard mixed reviews but I feel like a lot of good golf is ahead of me. I’m starting to swing it really nicely.”"
A 15-year-old from Houston named Cole Hammer became the third-youngest U.S. Open qualifier in history on Monday and will be the fourth-youngest player to compete in a U.S. Open. Hammer didn’t have a single bogey during his first round and ended up getting birdie on four of his last five holes to seal his spot in U.S. Open history. The high school sophomore has already committed to University of Texas, where rising TOUR star Jordan Spieth went to school.
"“My main goal was to see how I match up against these people. I just had to keep doing what I was doing,” Hammer said. “This means the world to me.”"
A resident of University Place, Michael Putnam grew up less than a mile away from Chambers Bay and was even the first person to play the course. Putnam knew what he had to do in order to play in this hometown event and he got things done in his Monday qualifier. Posting two rounds of 68-64, Putnam made 14 birdies and an eagle, shooting 12-under to lock his place at the 2015 U.S. Open.
“I’ve felt pressure since they announced it,” Putnam said of the U.S. Open. “I knew it was coming for three or four years. I haven’t gone a couple days without someone asking if I was in the tournament. Every question in the book has been thrown at me.
Putnam took a jab controversial comments made by USGA executive director Mike Davis saying, “Apparently, I’m going to win. I’ve played it more than anyone else.”
Someone who earned co-medalist honors with Michael Putnam was Sam Saunders, who shot 66-66, 12-under at Brookside Golf and Country Club and The Lakes Golf and Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. Saunders, who happens to to be the grandson of the legendary Arnold Palmer, didn’t make things easy on himself entering the qualifier. Saunders ended up making the decision to use his caddies’ clubs instead of his own, prior to his qualifier round on Monday. Luckily, his caddies current clubs were also Saunders old set, so the switch wasn’t entirely new to him. Just don’t expect him to pull this stunt before Thursday’s opening round of the U.S. Open.
"“I switched in Midland last year,” said Saunders. “I was using the muscleback blades and was struggling a little bit with some shots into the wind. I was spinning the ball a lot and didn’t get the distance I needed. So I decided to try something with a little more mass to it and these irons nailed it for me. I didn’t feel like I had to force anything with these clubs.”"
Monday’s qualifier was a cruel reminder for how brutal life on TOUR can be, especially for this year’s Memorial winner. David Lingmerth picked up his first career victory at the Memorial on Sunday, after beating Justin Rose in a three-hole playoff. Lingmerth wasn’t sure if he would participate in the 36-hole qualifier, but decided to following his win at Muirfield Village. Mustering together a 71-70 just a few hours after his exhausting victory, Lingmerth failed to make the cut.
"“I didn’t know if I was going to be mentally ready for it,” said Lingmerth, who is not playing this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic. “I don’t know if I am now. It was a rough go, especially on the front nine. I played a little better on the back.”"
Other Notable Names that Failed to Qualify:
- Steve Stricker
- Stewart Cink
- Davis Love III
- Vijay Singh
- Justin Thomas
- Nick Watney
- Chris DiMarco
- David Duval
- Harris English
- David Toms
- Ben Crane
Controversy has been brewing at Chambers Bay for weeks now, but the field is finally set for all the action taking place on June 18th. While some of these players may not win our country’s great major, their journeys are certainly ones to remember.