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Going for it: My day at U.S. Open sectional qualifying

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U.S. Open sectional qualifying was held at courses across the country yesterday. If the championship is the U.S. Open, then the sectional could be called the U.S. Wide Open, a blank canvas waiting to be filled with a story.

In many ways, sectionals embody the spirit of the USGA even more than the championship event. There is an air of hope and possibility for amateurs and young professionals, and there is also the grinding journey of accomplished PGA professionals to uncover past glory and success. I took the day to check out qualifying and get feel for those who punch their ticket to compete in the national championship.

In my area, the event was held at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, MD., a course that has held a number of USGA qualifyers. The day was about as good as it gets for the Nation’s Capital in summertime, 72 degrees and sunny with puffs of wind just strong enough to give the players something to think about. It felt more like San Diego than Washington, DC and the heavy rains from the night before made the greens as receptive as they could possibly be after being prepared to approximate U.S. Open levels of speed and treachery.

A couple of players took advantage of the conditions to go low in the first of the two required rounds. Mark Lawrence, an amateur playing out of Richmond. VA, took advantage of the second alternate slot to post a 5-under par 67, the low round of the day. Cody Proveaux, a pro from Richmond, VA with an “everyman” body but a swing to die for, put up a 68 in his opening round. Unfortunately, Lawrence followed up with a 76 and Proveaux with a 77. Woodmont giveth and Woodmont taketh away.

Temporary 8th Tee box with regular back tee in front

The list of 68 entrants had names that ring familiar to Tour fans. Robert Allenby, Vaughn Taylor, Dan Summerhays, and Erik Compton have known success on the PGA Tour at some time. None of them were among the four players who went through from the field of 63. It was a demonstration of the difficulty of the conditions on a course set up to be a test of the best. The course had been stretched and hardened to USGA standards; in one case the temporary 8th tee was moved so far back I was actually on the fringe surrounding the adjacent 9th green. Past glory meant nothing on a day that was all about what happens in ten days time.

It’s always good sport for spectators to spot a player that isn’t known and go “all in” in support of his effort. Standing on the range I saw a lanky young man who for all the world looked like Memorial champion Patrick Cantlay, striping low-flighted drivers under the wind and puring 7-irons that landed within a beach towel’s distance of each other. The golfer was Trevor Werbylo, who had just completed his sophomore year at the University of Arizona. He put himself in competition with a first round 71.

I asked if Open qualifying felt different than other competitions. “Well, you have to stay patient. It’s two rounds of golf, so that’s different from a lot of qualifiers. I put myself in a good position, and I think I need to get to 3- or 4-under to have a chance.” Werbylo played some impressive golf, hitting driver/7-iron for an easy birdie and almost driving the 350 yard 4th. Werbylo fell short, 4 shots shy of a playoff. But he definitely showed that he is a young player with the tools to make his mark in the game someday.

Trevor Werrbylo

Standing on the first tee waiting or the first round begin I saw a familiar figure approaching. It was Steve Wheatcroft, a PGA Tour professional who I had played with last year at the Humana Challenge (formerly the Bob Hope Desert Classic). Wheatcroft had impressed me that day with his play and even more so with his friendly and helpful attitude. Playing in that event I was very aware of being in their “office”, but he went out of his way to read putts and give tips to me during the round.

He was disappointed in his first round 75, but his 320-yard drive to open the second round displayed his ability to right the ship. He at 146, but was undaunted. As soon as the last show was struck, he was packing the car and getting ready for the car trip to the next event with his caddy. Such is the life of the journeyman pro, a far cry from the private jets and entourages of the top names.

Steve Wheatcroft

The winners were Billy Hurley III (141), Connor Arrendell (141), Joe Bramlett (142) and Ryan Sullivan (142). Hurley is a well-known player on the PGA Tour and in the Washington, DC area. He looked comfortable and confident, like an Olympic sprinter who knows that he has enough to make it past the qualifying heats. His game showed the full-set of skills available to a PGA Tour winner, including a lovely up-and down on the Par 5 3rd that had the crowd buzzing.

All four advanced to one of the most prestigious events in golf on one of its iconic courses, Pebble Beach Golf Links. The Latin phrase “carpe diem” means seize the day; four golfers did just that. For the rest, it’s off to the bar for a beer, then back to the range to look for the shot will make the difference for them in 2020.

Billy Hurley III

Below are the results from the other 10 sites (courtesy USGA).

COLUMBUS, OHIO

Brookside Golf & Country Club / Scioto Country Club (121 players for 14 spots)

• Qualifiers: Luke Guthrie, Anirban Lahiri, Sam Saunders, Jhonattan Vegas, Rory Sabbatini, Jason Dufner, Chesson Hadley, Erik Van Rooyen, Luke Donald, Aaron Baddeley, Brandon Wu, Ryan Fox, Collin Morikawa and Kyoung-Hoon Lee

• Notable non-qualifiers: Cameron Champ, Kevin Tway, Danny Lee, Harold Varner III, 2011 U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, 2018 Latin America Amateur champion Joaquin Niemann, three-time USGA champion Ryan Moore, Cole Hammer, Steve Stricker, Bill Haas, Bobby Clampett, 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Akshay Bhatia

SPRINGFIELD, OHIO

Springfield Country Club (73 players for 5 spots)

• Qualifiers: Zac Blair, Chip McDaniel, Brian Stuard, Nick Hardy and Brett Drewitt

• Notable non-qualifiers: Troy Merritt, 2016 U.S. Amateur runner-up Brad Dalke, 2014 U.S. Amateur runner-up Corey Conners, Dylan Meyer

SURREY, ENGLAND

Walton Heath Golf Club (Old and New Courses), (109 players for 14 spots)

• Qualifiers: Dean Burmester, Sam Horsfield, Marcus Fraser, Clement Sordet, Matthieu Pavon, Lee Slattery, Marcus Kinhult, Rhys Enoch, Adri Arnaus, Justin Walters, Daniel Hillier, Thomas Pieters, Merrick Bremner and Renato Paratore

• Notable non-qualifiers: Lee Westwood (missed by three strokes), 2005 U.S. Amateur champion Edoardo Molinari, 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Min Woo Lee and 2010 U.S. Open runner-up Gregory Havret

PURCHASE, N.Y.

Century Country Club/Old Oaks Country Club, (73 players for 14 spots)

• Qualifiers: Cameron Young, Matt Parziale, Andy Pope, Rob Oppenheim

• Non-qualifiers: 2011 U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft, 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion/2019 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball champion Scott Harvey, 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Michael McCoy, PGA Tour winners Johnson Wagner, Jim Herman and J.J. Henry, and Gary Nicklaus, son of 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus

MILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA

RattleSnake Point Golf Club, par 72 (37 players for 4 spots)

• Qualifiers: Tom Hoge, Sepp Straka, Nathan Lashley, Alex Prugh

• Notable non-qualifiers: Two-time PGA Tour winner Harris English (141) shot the low round of the day in the morning (5-under 67), but an afternoon 73 put him into the 3-for-2 playoff. He is the first alternate. Fabian Gomez of Argentina (142) is the second alternate.

BALL GROUND, GA.

Hawks Ridge Golf Club, (67 players for 4 spots)

• Qualifiers: Oliver Schniederjans, Noah Norton, Chandler Eaton, Roberto Castro

• Notable non-qualifiers: Jaime Lopez Rivarola, of Argentina, earned the first alternate; Joey Garber went 4 over on his last four holes and is the second alternate. Robert Karlsson, an 11-time winner on the European Tour; Alex Smalley, who played in the 2017 U.S. Open and has a Duke record 25 top 10 finishes; PGA Tour pros Brendon de Jonge, Jason Bohn, and 2000 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion D.J. Trahan.

STREAMSONG, FLA.

Streamsong Resort (Black Course), (56 players for 3 spots)

• Qualifiers: Callum Tarren, Luis Gagne and Guillermo Pereira

• Notable non-qualifiers: Tyson Alexander (missed by one stroke), Tyler Strafaci (missed by four)
• Alexander, 30, of Gainesville, Fla., is the first alternate

NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF.

Big Canyon Country Club and Newport Beach Country Club (99 players for 5 spots)

• Qualifiers: Chun An Yu, Hayden Shieh, Richard Lee, Stewart Hagestad, Andreas Halvorsen

• Notable non-qualifiers: 2018 U.S. Amateur semifinalist Isaiah Salinda, 2002 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and PGA Tour winner Charlie Beljan, PGA Tour professional Brandon Harkins, 2015 U.S. Amateur semifinalist Sean Crocker, amateur world No. 2 Justin Suh, three-time PGA Tour runner-up Cameron Tringale

WALLA WALLA, WASH.

Wine Valley Golf Club (55 players for 3 spots)

• Qualifiers: Eric Dietrich, Matthew Naumec, Spencer Tibbits

• Notable non-qualifiers: Mackenzie Tour-Canada competitor Alistair Docherty (first alternate); six-time U.S. Open competitor and three-time Web.com Tour winner Michael Putnam (second alternate); 2016 U.S. Open competitor Matt Marshall; 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur quarterfinalist Joe Highsmith; PGA Tour winner Kevin Stadler

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. carl

    Jun 6, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Michael Williams content is by far the best on this site.

  2. Chris

    Jun 5, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    Nice user name, loves to Troll about Rules apparently

  3. rules

    Jun 4, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    “…he went out of his way to read putts and give tips to me during the round.”
    this is against the rules of golf, specifically 10.2a.

    • Geoffrey Holland

      Jun 5, 2019 at 4:00 am

      Clearly he’s talking about a Pro-Am where pros help the amateurs. Get a clue.

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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2024 RBC Heritage

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GolfWRX is on site this week at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island for the RBC Heritage. Plenty of golfers who competed in the Masters last week will be making the quick turnaround in the Lowcountry of South Carolina as the Heritage is again one of the Tour’s Signature Events.

We have general albums for you to check out, as well as plenty of WITBs — including Justin Thomas and Justin Rose.

We’ll continue to update as more photos flow in from SC.

Check out links to all our photos, below.

General Albums

WITB Albums

Pullout Albums

See what GolfWRXers are saying and join the discussion in the forums.

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Morning 9: Aberg: I want to be No. 1 | Rory’s management blasts ‘fake news’ reports

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans, as we look back at the Masters while looking ahead to this week’s RBC Heritage.

1. Shane Ryan: Appreciate Scottie’s greatness

Golf Digest’s Shane Ryan…”This is what’s called generational talent, and we haven’t seen it in almost 20 years. Steve Stricker read the tea leaves when he picked Scheffler for the 2021 Ryder Cup—a decision that was richly rewarded—and starting in 2022, he was off to the races. The only hiccup was a few putting woes last year, but even that only served to highlight how remarkable his ball-striking had become—instead of winning, he was finishing third. When he fixed the putting, with help from a new coach and a bit of equipment advice from Rory McIlroy, he soared yet again to the top of the game, but this time he seemed more indomitable, more inevitable, more brilliant.”

  • “The sustained success of the last three years has officially made him the best professional golfer since Tiger Woods, a conclusion supported by analytics, the eye test, and every other metric you could dream up. With fewer majors, he has nevertheless leaped past Spieth, McIlroy, and Koepka in terms of pure ability. He doesn’t have their legacy, yet, but if we’re talking about peak performance, he’s already surpassed them.”
  • “He’s so much better than everyone else, which is a sentiment that is both commonplace—I saw it on Twitter over and over again—and revelatory. It’s the thing you say because there is nothing else to say. You’re left with the wild truth, which words can describe but never capture.”
Full piece.

2. Aberg: I want to be No. 1

The AFP’s Simon Evans…”The 24-year-old finished second, four strokes behind winner Scottie Scheffler, after carding a final round 69 but he certainly won many admirers among the patrons at Augusta National and beyond.”

  • “And his performance has filled Aberg with self-belief.”
  • “Everyone in my position, they are going to want to be major champions. They are going to want to be world number one, and it’s the same for me, that’s nothing different,” he said.
  • “It has been that way ever since I picked up a golf club, and that hasn’t changed. So I think this week solidifies a lot of those things are there, and we just need to keep doing those things and put ourselves in positions to win tournaments, ” he said.
Full piece.

3. Homa’s honest answer on double bogey

Golf Channel staff report…”But Homa’s tee shot at No. 12 bounded off the putting surface and into a bush. After a healthy search, Homa found his ball and had to take an unplayable lie. He made double bogey, effectively ending his bid at a maiden major title.”

  • “Homa tied for third, seven shots back of Scheffler. Asked about what happened on the fateful 9-iron, Homa offered two replies.”
  • “The honest answer is, it didn’t feel fair. I hit a really good golf shot, and it didn’t feel fair. I’ve seen far worse just roll back down the hill,” he said.
  • “The professional answer is, these things happen.”
Full piece.

4. Harbour Town ahead

RBC Heritage field notes, via Adam Stanley of PGATour.com…”Scottie Scheffler is, for now, set to tee it up at the RBC Heritage. He was clear to say that if his wife, Meredith, would go into labor during the Masters, he would head home to be with her, so it’s safe to assume that same rule will stand at Harbour Town. Scheffler has not shot an over-par round all season and has three victories (and one runner-up). He made his debut at Harbour Town last year and finished T11… Matt Fitzpatrick looks to become the first golfer to go back-to-back at the RBC Heritage since Boo Weekley in 2007-08. Fitzpatrick, a playoff victor last year, has two top-10 finishes this season. He has just one missed cut at Harbour Town over the last six years and he finished fourth in 2021 to go along with two more top-15 results in a three-year span (T14 in 2018 and 2020)…”

  • “Jordan Spieth is hoping to continue his run of fine play at Harbour Town after a playoff loss last season and a playoff win the season prior. Spieth has five top-25 finishes at the RBC Heritage in seven starts… Justin Thomas earned a spot in the field after remaining in the top 30 (he’s No. 30) in the Official World Golf Ranking despite a missed cut at the Masters. Thomas, who finished T25 last season at Harbour Town, has two top 10s on the season… Ludvig Åberg, who is tops in the Aon Next 10, will head to Hilton Head for the first time. Åberg has had a fabulous 2024 campaign thus far with four top 10s (including two runner-up results) and is knocking on the door for a victory… Hideki Matsuyama was the only eligible player who did not commit to the RBC Heritage, while Viktor Hovland – after a missed cut at the Masters – withdrew from the field on Saturday.”
Full piece.

5. Reed’s caddie’s needle

Our Matt Vincenzi…”After a particularly bad drive during his third round on Saturday, Reed’s caddie, Kessler Karain, also his brother-in-law, made a snide but factual comment to Patrick.”

  • “Your driving has cost us a lot this week,” Karain remarked.
  • “Reed didn’t disagree and told reporters after the round that there was nothing good about his round…
  • “A reporter then asked: “It’s a good thing he’s a family member, right?”
  • “Yeah, exactly. I’d probably be dragging him up that last hole,” Reed said. “I swear.Just what you want to hear as you’re looking at the ball in the tree, and he goes, ‘You need to drive it better.’ Thanks, Kessler. I appreciate it. Great words of wisdom. Drive it better.”
  • “This may be the last major for Reed for a while, as the 33-year-old has not been invited nor qualified for next month’s PGA Championship.”
Full piece.

6. LIV wants Hovland next?

Ewan Murray for the Guardian…”Rising speculation that Viktor Hovland will be the next high-profile golfer to be coaxed to the LIV tour will increase the need for Ryder Cup Europe to apply a simple qualification process for golfers on the Saudi Arabian-backed circuit.”

  • “LIV is forging ahead with plans for 2025, which include new events and the recruitment of more players from the PGA and DP World Tours. The rate of turnover is likely to be increased by the number of golfers who had three-year contracts when joining LIV, which will expire at the end of 2024.”
  • “Chatter on the range at the LIV event in Miami this month and again at the Masters largely surrounded Hovland, the world No 6 who starred for Europe in the defeat of the United States in Rome last year. Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton, who also played in that team, have subsequently joined LIV. Hovland missed the cut at the Masters and promptly withdrew from the PGA Tour’s $20m stop in Hilton Head this week.”
Full piece.

7. Rory’s management: LIV reports are ‘fake news’

Brian Keogh for the Irish Independent…”A report that Rory McIlroy was on the verge of an $850million move to LIV Golf has been slammed as “fake news” by his management.

“Fake news. Zero truth,” McIlroy’s manager Sean O’Flaherty said in an email.

London financial paper “City AM” reported today that sources have told them that McIlroy “could” join LIV Golf

The paper reported that “two separate sources have told City AM that they believe a deal is close. It is claimed that LIV Golf chiefs have offered world No2 McIlroy an eye-watering $850m to join, plus around two per cent equity in the competition.”

Full piece.
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Masters 2024: Reduced-scale clubhouse trophy and green jacket to Scottie Scheffler

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In the world of golf, there is Scotty and there is Scottie. Scotty Cameron gave the world of golf a nickname for a prestigious putter line, and Scottie Scheffler has now given the golf world a blueprint for how to negotiate one of the toughest tournaments to win. Sunday, Scheffler won the Masters tournament for the second time in three years. He separated from the field around the turn, making a trio of birdies at holes eight through 10. On the long walk home, he added three more birdie at 13, 14, and 16, to secure a four-shot win over Masters and major-championship rookie Ludvig Åberg.

As the final group moved along the ninth hole, a quadrilateral stood at 7 under par, tied for the lead. Scheffler, playing partner Collin Morikawa, and penultimate pairing Max Homa and Åberg advanced equally toward Amen Corner, with the resolution of the competition well in doubt. Morikawa flinched first, getting too greedy (his words) at nine and 11. Double bogey at each dropped him farther back than he wished, and he ultimately made a 10-foot putt for bogey at the last, to tie for third position.

Ludvig Åberg made the next mistake. Whether he knew the Ben Hogan story about the approach into 11 or not, he bit off way more than he should have. His approach was never hopeful, and ended short and right in White Dogwood’s pond. Åberg finished the hole in six shots. To his credit, he played the remaining seven holes in two-under figures. Finally, Max Homa was the victim of the finicky winds over Golden Bell, the short, par-3 12th hole. His disbelief was evident, as his tee shot flew everything and landed in azaleas behind the putting surface. After two pitch shots and two putts, Homa also had a double bogey, losing shots that he could not surrender.

Why? At the ninth hole, Scottie Scheffler hit one of the finest approach shots of all time, into the final green of the first nine. Scheffler had six inches for birdie and he converted. At the 10th, he lasered another approach shot into a tricky hole location, then made another fine putt for birdie. Within the space of 30 minutes, Scheffler had seized complete control of the tournament, but Amen Corner still lurked.

At the 11th, Scheffler played safely right with his approach. His chip shot was a wee bit too brave and left him a seven-foot comeback putt for par. He missed on the right side and gave one shot back to the course and field. His tee ball on 12 was safely aboard, and he took two putts for par. On 13, the 2022 champion drove slightly through the fairway, then reached the green, with his first two shots. His seventy-foot-plus putt for eagle eased up, four feet past the hole. His second putt went down, and he was back in the birdie zone. As on nine, his approach to 14 green finished brilliantly within six inches. His final birdie came at the 16th, where he negotiated a nine-foot putt for a deuce.

Scheffler reached 11 under par and stood four shots clear of Ludvig Åberg when he reached the 18th tee. His drive found the lower fairway bunker on the left, and his approach settled in a vale, short and right of the green. With dexterous hands, Scheffler pitched to three feet and made the putt for par. With a big smile, he embraced caddie Ted Scott, who won for the fourth time at Augusta National, and the second with Scheffler. Ludvig Åberg finished alone in second spot, four back of the winner. Not a bad performance for the first-time major championship participant Åberg, and not a bad finish for the world No. 1 and second-time Masters champion, Scottie Scheffler.

 

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