Monday's U.S. Open sectional qualifying started with 57 open spots, but "golf's longest day" wasn't long enough, as two more slots are still unfilled. The regional sites in Bradenton and Dallas both have unfinished playoffs, as darkness set in before the final spot at each site could be decided. In Florida, 15-year-old David Snyder will try to break his tie with John Nieporte at 8 a.m. ET, while Ryan Palmer, one of the better players on the Tour, will go to a ninth playoff hole with Zack Fischer in Lakewood Country Club.
Palmer and Fischer halved eight straight holes in a playoff that presumably should have ended an hour before darkness hit in North Texas. But the extra holes dragged on and on with both finishing up on the eighth green in near pitch dark conditions. Golf Channel's George Savaricas was on scene at Lakewood for the interminable playoff:
Palmer has emerged as one of the most consistent players on the Tour and one of the best pros in the Metroplex area. He was on the first page of the leaderboard for most of the week at nearby Colonial, and he's placed inside the top 25 at a U.S. Open in the past. But he missed out on Olympic last year and is now fighting sudden death at 8:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday.
Aside from those two outstanding spots, Monday was another sectional qualifying day full of unique storylines.
- There was the 11-for-7 playoff in Columbus, which was nearly held up by Mike Weir, who was stuck in traffic after an accident jammed up the roads while he tried to hustle over to the other venue at this Ohio site.
- There was 54-year-old Jay Don Blake finishing as the only player in red numbers in St. Louis, likely becoming the oldest golfer in the field at Merion.
- There was Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer's grandson, trying to get back to The King's home state, missing a 4-inch putt and then losing in a 3-for-1 playoff at Woodmont in suburban D.C.
- There was Temple product and Pennsylvania native Brandon Matthews taking an unplayable at the trunk of a greenside tree on No. 18, making his drop and then chipping in for an amusing impromptu celebration and what was almost certainly a U.S. Open berth in his hometown . . . until 18-year-old amateur Gavin Hall went off behind him and birdied his last four of 36 holes to bump Matthews to alternate status.
- There was Michael Kim in Georgia, perhaps the best college golfer in the country, who was part of a Cal team that disappointingly bowed out in the NCAA semis over the weekend. Kim then flew from the NCAAs in Georgia to Columbus to accept an award from Jack Nicklaus at Memorial before jetting back to Georgia and picking up co-medalist honors to cruise into the USGA's national championship.
- There was Jordan Spieth, perhaps the next great American golfer, maintaining his superstar status in the Dallas area by earning co-medalist honors at Lakewood. Spieth has been a fixture in the DFW golf scene since making the cut and impressing at the Byron Nelson as a high school teenager. The hype was fulfilled at UT and last year at Olympic, where he was T21 and the low amateur. Spieth has earned repeated exemptions this year in his first season as a pro, and it won't be a surprise if the 19-year-old is in the mix at Merion.
The qualifying process started with more than 10,000 golfers who had $150 for the entry fee and a 1.4 handicap index or better with the USGA. That group was pared down to 824 players at 11 sectional sites vying for just 57 slots.
These 55 (soon to be 57) players join the 77 fully exempt players who did not have to go through the qualifying process. On Monday, I broke down that field of 77 stars, who are more likely to populate the top of the leaderboard than these qualifiers, and how each earned their way to bypass the grind of golf's longest day. That group's appeal, however, doesn't take away from the experience on Monday's sun-up to sun-down golf that ensures America's national championship is truly "open."
Here are the complete results from Monday's sectional qualifying:
|Century Country Club and Old Oaks Country Club, Purchase, N.Y. (4 spots)|
|Gavin Hall (a)||-4|
|Brandon Matthews (a)||-2|
|Hawks Ridge Golf Club, Ball Ground, Ga. (3 spots)|
|Michael Kim (a)||-11|
|Grayson Murray (a)||-9|
|Woodmont Country Club, Rockville, Md. (8 spots)|
|Matt Bettencourt (playoff winner)||-5|
|Harold Varner III||-5|
|Colonial Country Club, Memphis, Tenn. (9 spots)|
|Will Bishop (a)||-2|
|Brookside Golf & Country Club and The Lakes Golf & Country Club, Columbus, Ohio (15 spots)|
|Ted Potter, Jr.||-8|
|Doug LaBelle II||-8|
|Springfield Country Club, Springfield, Ohio (2 spots)|
|Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club, Bradenton, Fla. (3 spots)|
|John Nierporte / David Snyder (a)||-7|
|Bradley Bastion (a)||-6|
|Lakewood Country Club, Dallas, Texas (4 spots)|
|Ryan Palmer / Zack Fischer||-7|
|Old Warson Country Club, St. Louis, Mo. (2 spots)|
|Jay Don Blake||-3|
|Tumble Creek Club, Cle Elum, Wash. (2 spots)|
|Big Canyon Country Club & Newport Beach Country Club, Newport Beach, Calif. (5 spots)|