A tale of alternates in Memphis and for US Open
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Adam Scott and Russell Knox were among those who made it through 36 holes of U.S. Open qualifying. The next order of business was to call the FedEx St. Jude classic and express their regrets.
Perhaps no alternate list is more volatile than the PGA Tour event the week of U.S. Open qualifying.
Scott’s decision was easy. He had played five consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour before his qualifier. To play in Memphis, Tennessee, ahead of the U.S. Open would have meant seven straight weeks.
That’s one reason Scott opted for a qualifier instead of trying to crack the top 60 after this week.
Ten players have withdrawn from Memphis, four of whom made it through qualifying — Scott, Knox, Patrick Rodgers and Ollie Schniederjans.
In turn, that has had an effect on the overall strength of field, which is likely to reduce the world ranking points to 36 for the winner. Only the AT&T Byron Nelson has offered fewer ranking points to the winner this year.
That’s relevant because the top 60 in the world after this week, if not already eligible, get into the U.S. Open.
Emiliano Grillo, who finished third at Colonial, moved up to No. 50 this week and is a lock for Shinnecock Hills. According to a world ranking specialist who goes by “Nosferatu” on Twitter, Byeong Hun An at No. 56 is assured of staying in the top 60, so he will be at Shinnecock.
And with the field weak, only one other player in Memphis can crack the top 60 with a victory — Billy Horschel or James Hahn.
The USGA held back six spots in case anyone made it through the top 60, so it will have at least three and possibly four spots to award alternates. Which alternates? That remains the mystery. The USGA has a formula that it does not share publicly (only with players at the top of the list for planning purposes) to avoid confusion and endless criticism about which sectional site should be ranked ahead of the other.
Hunter Mahan is working his way out of a prolonged slump, and that includes U.S. Open qualifying. He was out of the mix quickly by opening with a 79, and while he’s playing the St. Jude Classic this week, he still finished what he started. Mahan shot 74 in the afternoon.
Why keep going?
Mahan has played only once in the last five weeks.
“I wanted to keep playing, hit shots. Whatever I shoot is kind of irrelevant,” he said. “It was to continue trying to improve.”
There was only one other issue. Another player in his group already had withdrawn. Mahan was playing with Easton Paxton, who plays at North Carolina State. He shot 77 and also was out of it, though like most amateurs, he wanted to finish it out. For Mahan to leave would mean Paxton playing as a single behind a threesome.
“I did not want to do that to him,” Mahan said. “I don’t want to leave him hanging.”
TIGER’S FIST PUMP
Tiger Woods has raised his putter and pumped his fist during some good rounds and a few Sunday chances this year. Missing is that big uppercut. There hasn’t been a reason for one yet, which Woods realized from his 9-year-old son, Charlie.
“My son tries to do it, which is kind of funny,” Woods said. “And I keep showing him how to do it, and I remember, ‘I haven’t done this for a while.’”
He had the uppercut going for his first hole-in-one on the PGA Tour in Milwaukee in 1996, and at the Phoenix Open the next year when he aced the infamous 16th hole. His 12-shot victory in the 1997 Masters elicited a sweeping uppercut. But then his 12-foot birdie putt to force a playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open?
“I’m screaming to the sky,” Woods said. “I mean, I don’t know what the heck I’m going to do. That’s just spontaneous reaction. ... You don’t see that on the first round. It takes us 3½ days, or sometimes four days, to get into a position where that moment happens.”
Judy Rankin gets to add another special moment at Muirfield Village. She already is a member of Captain’s Club at Muirfield Village. She was the captain when the Americans won the Solheim Cup in 1998. She returns next year as the honoree for the Memorial Tournament.
Rankin is the 12th woman to be honored.
A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Rankin was the first woman to surpass more than $100,000 in earnings on the LPGA Tour. She won 26 times before she became the first female broadcaster on network TV when ABC Sports hired her in 1984.
Andrew Pranger’s dream of playing the U.S. Open didn’t last long, but it at least provided a memory.
Pranger is a financial adviser in the St. Louis area who recently won the Old Warson Cup as part of the Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association. He was an alternate from local qualifying. Having never made it into sectional qualifying, he decided to drive six hours with his father to Columbus. They stopped along the way to play Moraine Country Club, where Byron Nelson won the 1945 PGA Championship.
“We got in last night, and I got to the course at 10 minutes to 6,” Pranger said between rounds. “And then they came over and told me I was in.”
And then it got even better.
He replaced Kyoung Heen Lee. He was in the last group Monday morning with Priyanshu Singh. The other member of their group was more familiar: Adam Scott, a Masters champion and former world No. 1.
Pranger’s hopes of getting to Shinnecock were gone early with an 81, but the left-hander signed his card and was smiling.
“My first time into sectionals and I play with Adam Scott,” he said. “He was so professional in everything he did.”
SENDEN AND SON
John Senden missed the 54-hole cut at the Memorial, his fifth PGA Tour event since sitting out a year to be with 14-year-old son Jacob during his battle with a brain tumor. Jacob was with him at Muirfield Village, making it a great week until Senden got a stomach bug Saturday morning before his third round.
No worries. Jacob’s tumor has gotten smaller after six radiation treatments and six rounds of chemotherapy that ended in November. His hair has grown back, and it about stood on the back of Jacob’s neck when he had a chance to meet tournament host Jack Nicklaus.
“He was over the moon when he saw Jack,” Senden said.
Senden now wears two bracelets on his left wrist, one gold and one gray. The gold one is for childhood cancer and has Jacob’s first and last name. The gray one is for brain cancer and has “Senden Strong” written on it.
“We’ve had a really good week together,” he said.
Sergio Garcia will have a new caddie at the U.S. Open. Garcia’s manager confirmed that the former Masters champion and Glen Murray have parted ways. Garcia has hired Mark Chaney, longtime caddie for Jeff Sluman whose list of employers most recently has included Fred Couples. ... Whee Kim grew up idolizing Tiger Woods, so imagine his delight — and surprise — when he first met him on the practice range a few years ago when Woods spoke to him in Korean. “I think he’s funny,” Kim said after the third round of the Memorial. “He said some words ... it wasn’t words I can say back. He said K.J. Choi taught him some words.” ... Jimmy Jones Jr., son of the late Dawn Coe-Jones on the LPGA Tour, played his first PGA Tour-sanctioned event last week on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and made the cut. Jones shot 78 in the third round of the Freedom 55 Financial Open and then withdrew before the last round.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The two LPGA Tour majors have required a combined 12 playoff holes — eight at the ANA Inspiration, four at the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I look forward to getting my teeth kicked in.” — Keegan Bradley, after qualifying to play in his seventh straight U.S. Open.