With the conclusion of the FedEx St. Jude Classic on Sunday afternoon in Memphis, it's now officially U.S. Open week. The field for America's national championship is about as big as it gets in golf, with 156 players going off split tees in groups of three during sun-up to sun-down golf. The process for getting a spot is nothing like the season's first major, Augusta National designating players in its field as "invitees" and sweating if the total field starts to push triple digits.
The U.S. Open, on the other hand, takes a mix of current top professionals and those who snaked their way through local and sectional qualifying. It's a true open, with usually half the field reserved for anyone who signs up for qualifying and successfully plays his way in (of course, in order to sign up, you need a 1.4 handicap index so not just any old chap is in that group of 10k-plus dreamers trying to qualify). This year, in fact, there will be significantly more qualifiers (82) than those regular touring pros with exemptions (74).
Kevin Na and Bernd Wiesberger will be the final two players to earn their spot into the field via exemption. The 14th and final method of getting an exemption is falling inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings released the Monday of U.S. Open week. Last Sunday, we knew that Na had played his way safely inside that mark with his showing at the Memorial, which he lost in a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama. That playoff loss second-place finish rocketed him from 70th to 40th and Na withdrew from sectional qualifying in Columbus the next day (and also passed on the tournament in Memphis this week).
Wiesberger opted to pass on last week's Nordea Masters in Sweden in order to prep for the Lyoness Open this week in his home country of Austria. The move paid off, as he went to the wire over on the Euro Tour before he also lost in a playoff to Mikael Lundberg. That playoff loss second-place finish will push him from 69th in the world up to 60th, so he should make it juuuuuuust on the number. That sets our final exemptions list at 74, with Euro Tour regulars Thomas Bjorn and Richard Sterne withdrawing since we last checked in. Here's the list of those exempt, in order by the first method in which they earned entry (e.g. Phil Mickelson is exempt in six different ways, but listed just once):
|Winners of U.S. Open the last 10 Years|
|Angel Cabrera (2007)|
|Lucas Glover (2009)|
|Retief Goosen (2004)|
|Graeme McDowell (2010)|
|Rory McIlroy (2011)|
|Geoff Ogilvy (2006)|
|Justin Rose (2013)|
|Webb Simpson (2012)|
|Winner/Runner-up of 2013 U.S. Amateur|
|Matthew Fitzpatrick (a)|
|Oliver Goss (a)|
|British Amateur Champion|
|Masters winner last 5 years|
|Open Championship winner last 5 years|
|PGA Championship winner last 5 years|
|Players Champions last 3 years|
|2013 U.S. Senior Open winner|
|Top 10 (and ties) from 2013 U.S. Open|
|Final 30 Qualifers for FedExCup's TOUR Championship|
|Brendon de Jonge|
|Top 60 in World Rankings as of May 24, 2014|
|Miguel Angel Jimenez|
|Top 60 in World Rankings as of June 9, 2014|
The number of qualifiers is currently set at 79, the most recent change coming with Sam Love replacing Jason Millard, who qualified out of the Memphis-Colonial Country Club sectional. Millard decided to DQ himself after five days of back-and-forth internal debate over whether or not he grounded his club in a sand trap down the stretch of his 36-hole qualifying day.
His backstory is amazing, and qualifying was a bit of great news in a rough year (his dad passed about this time last year and he takes care of his mother who is stricken with MS). Millard was the only one who could make the call and DQ himself, and while driving to Pinehurst, he decided to pull out of his national championship, opening the spot for Love.
With 79 all set, that leaves three more to come off the "alternates" list and round out the field of 156. The way the USGA determines who gets chosen off the alternates list is nebulous so it's tough to predict an order or who will get the call for those last three spots. Here's your current group of 79 qualifiers from last week's "golf's longest day."
|Andrew Dorn (a)|
|Billy Hurley III|
|Bo Van Pelt|
|Brain Campbell (a)|
|Cory Whitsett (a)|
|Hunter Stewart (a)|
|Hyung Sung Kim|
|Maverick McNealy (a)|
|Robby Shelton (a)|
|Seung Yul Noh|
|Will Grimmer (a)|