2013 U.S. Open sectional qualifying: Big names vie for spots at Merion

Andy Lyons

Major champions Vijay Singh and Mike Weir are just two of the notables who must earn tee times at the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in two weeks.

Kyle Stanley and James Driscoll, fresh off successful outings at last week’s Memorial Tournament, will be among several big-name golfers hoping to earn positions at the upcoming U.S. Open by competing at one of 11 sectional qualifying sites across the country.

Stanley, a third-place finisher at Muirfield Village Golf Club, and Driscoll, T13 at Jack’s place, will compete against major winners Vijay Singh (missed the cut at the Memorial) and Mike Weir (53rd), as well as Camilo Villegas (T41) , Ricky Barnes (MC), and a host of other PGA Tour players just down the road from Muirfield at Brookside Golf & Country Club & The Lakes Golf & Country Club in Columbus, Ohio.

Since “golf’s longest day” takes place directly after the Memorial, the Columbus location is a handy site for those who played in nearby Dublin. It also, however, features the strongest field in the second, and final, stage for those hoping to punch their tickets to Merion Golf Club in two weeks.

The grueling 36-hole qualifiers reward those with the abilities and stamina to grab anywhere from two to 15 spots available at each site. Stanley, et al, will have to take on a slew of additional Memorial competitors, including Davis Love III (T29) , Cameron Tringale (T16), and Jeff Overton (MC), all of them battling it out for 15 slots.

Columbus is not the only site attracting A-listers. Andy Miller, son of 1973 U.S. Open winner and NBC’s lead golf analyst, Johnny, was a four-time All-American at Brigham Young. He’ll be matching his skills at Big Canyon Country Club & Newport Beach (Calif.) CC against, among others, another golfing scion, Stevin Irwin, the son of three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin. Beau Hossler, who, at 17 years old, held the lead for a short time at the 2012 U.S. Open, will also be vying for one of the site’s five spots.

With eight Open tee times available, Woodmont CC in Rockville, Md., is another popular stomping ground, where two-time U.S. Open titleholder Lee Janzen, 2009 U.S. Senior Open champion Fred Funk, and 2002 PGA Championship winner Rich Beem are in the field. So, too, are 2003 U.S. Amateur champion Nick Flanagan and Patrick Cantlay, the 2011 U.S. Amateur runner-up and low amateur at the 2011 U.S. Open who turned pro after last year's U.S. Open.

Nine competitors will make the final cut at Colonial CC in Memphis, Tenn., which will host several tour players, including renowned Tiger runner-up Rocco Mediate, who lost to Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open. He’ll be joined by 2001 British Open champion David Duval as well as tour golfers Billy Mayfair, D.J. Trahan, Colt Knost, and Harris English, among others.

Gangnam Style” sensation James Hahn will strut his stuff at Springfield (Ohio) CC, along with Derek Ernst, who won his first tour victory at last month’s Wells Fargo Championship. In the “where are they now?” category, Steve Scott, a not-so-famous second-place finisher to Tiger Woods at the 1996 U.S. Amateur, will also compete for the two available slots.

With Dallas’ Lakewood CC offering four spots, 1997 British Open winner and 1999 U.S. Ryder Cup hero Justin Leonard will match his skills against those of 1992 U.S. Open champion Tom Kite, 2004 British Open champion Todd Hamilton, and two-time U.S. Junior Amateur champion Jordan Spieth. Because it is, after all, all-Tiger, all-the time, another competitor will be Michael Whitehead, an alternate who made it to the 2011 U.S. Open after Woods withdrew due to an injury.

Tiger’s Stanford teammate (sensing a six degrees of separation theme here?) Casey Martin is among the hopefuls playing for two spots at Tumble Creek Club in Cle Elum, Wash. Martin successfully sued the PGA Tour in 2001, under the Americans With Disabilities Act, for the right to use a golf cart in tournaments. Now 41, Martin no longer plays professionally full-time, but he made it to the 2012 Open and finished one shot off the cut line.

Eight-time tour winner Brad Faxon headlines the festivities at Century CC & Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., which will send three lucky contestants to The Show.

Three slots are open at Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla., where Nick O’Hern, who tied for sixth at the 2006 U.S. Open, will compete with Camilo’s younger brother, Manuel Villegas. Manuel picked up his first win on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica in March.

Tour winners Billy Andrade and Heath Slocum will go at it at Hawks Ridge Golf Club in Ball Ground, Ga., where three positions are up for grabs.

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