Garcia gets into US Open that now tilts away from qualifying
PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Sergio Garcia was left out of the PGA Championship, the first time in 24 years he was not eligible for a major. The day after Brooks Koepka won, the Spaniard made it to the next major through U.S. Open qualifying in Dallas.
That was the third of 13 final qualifiers for the U.S. Open, to be held June 15-18 at Los Angeles Country Club. Already in the books are England last week and Japan on Monday, where Ryo Ishikawa was among three to advance.
The other 10 are on June 5 — the Monday after the Memorial. Along with one more look at the top 60 from the world ranking, that will complete the 156-man field.
But there are fewer qualifying spots than typically available. The USGA prides itself on being the most “open” of the majors. For three years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 78 players who had to go through 36-hole qualifying — half of the field.
The pandemic required some changes because of travel restrictions. But now that golf is back to normal, qualifying is not.
The PGA Championship was the cutoff for the top 60 in the world ranking — that was previously the case — but it also was the cutoff for the leading five players from the FedEx Cup standings. That provided spots for Nick Taylor, Mackenzie Hughes, Taylor Montgomery, Hayden Buckley and Andrew Putnam.
Putnam, currently at No. 37 in the FedEx Cup, ordinarily would have gone through qualifying — ditto for Hughes, who dropped three spots to No. 62 in the world when he missed the cut at the PGA Championship.
The USGA also reserved a spot for the points leader on the Korn Ferry Tour last year — Justin Suh, No. 75 in the FedEx Cup and No. 76 in the world ranking.
There also is a new spot for the NCAA champion this year.
Throw those out and it would bring the number to roughly the 50-50 range as it was before.
The USGA also provided five additional spots for the European tour — three from the Race to Dubai are various points, and two more from a special four-tournament money list that ends in Germany next week. However, the UK qualifier went from 12 or 13 spots to seven this year, so that's a push.
Among those outside the top 60 who have two weeks to work themselves back in are Kevin Kisner (65) and Scott Stallings (68). Both are at Colonial this week.
Tiger Woods is not playing the U.S. Open, which was entirely expected given the ankle fusion surgery in late April that is likely to take months of recovery.
It brought into clear view how much time he has missed from back surgeries and the Los Angeles car crash in February 2021.
Woods has three U.S. Open titles — one short of the record — along with two runner-up finishes. After this year, he will have played only 10 rounds in the last 10 years at the U.S. Open, having played only four times. He missed the cut in three of them — Chambers Bay in 2015, Shinnecock Hills in 2018, Winged Foot in 2020.
His scoring average dating to 2013 is 73.8.
BACK IN THE USA
Linn Grant makes her LPGA Tour debut on American soil this week in the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play at Shadow Creek. This comes about 18 months after the former Arizona State star from Sweden actually earned her card.
Grant's vaccination status kept her from coming to the United States. Her only six tournaments as an LPGA Tour rookie were overseas — two in Scotland, and events in France, Northern Ireland, Japan and South Korea. She had four top 10s and qualified for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, turning it down because she couldn't get there.
Travel restrictions were lifted earlier this month. Grant played in the Aramco Series last week in Florida — that's part of the Ladies European Tour schedule. And now she tees it up against 63 other players north of Las Vegas.
“I'm just going to try and enjoy, and not think too much about it and get into the mood that this is my workplace now,” Grant said about her first LPGA event in the U.S.
Her time away from the LPGA Tour was beneficial. Grant won shortly after turning pro in late 2021. Last year, she had four wins, two runner-ups and three times finished third.
“Looking back at it now, I really appreciate not coming here earlier,” Grant said Tuesday. "I think I wouldn’t have had the experience I’ve had with the LET and all the confidence that I’ve gained through the year. I think that was a great year for me to get into professional golf and learn about my game and traveling and getting used to all the stuff you have to get used to.
“I feel like I'm more prepared coming here now than I would've been a year ago.”
Rose Zhang has won just about everything in women's college golf this year. After winning the NCAA title again, she won the Annika Award that goes to the top female Division I player.
Zhang won the award for the second straight year. Her final season at Stanford — she is expected to turn pro for next week — featured eight victories.
In men's golf, Texas Tech senior Ludvig Aberg of Sweden won the Ben Hogan Award that goes to the top male college golfer based on his collegiate, amateur and pro events. Aberg joined Jon Rahm as the only players to win the Hogan Award back-to-back.
Zhang and Aberg are No. 1 in the amateur ranking — Zhang now has been there a record 140 weeks. Aberg is coming off wins in the Big 12 title and the NCAA regional.
Aberg also is a finalist for the Haskins Award that goes to the top college golfer.
Only six players found the green in two on Oak Hill’s two par 5s during the PGA Championship last week. Thomas Pieters did it twice over four rounds. The others were Rory McIlroy, Trey Mullinax, Stephan Jaeger, Tarren Callum and Jordan Spieth. ... PGA Tour Q-school returns for the first time since 2012. The final stage will be Dec. 14-17 on the Dye Valley course at the TPC Sawgrass and Sawgrass Country Club. The top five finishers and ties earn PGA Tour cards for 2024. ... Ryan Fox of New Zealand and Min Woo Lee of Australia are the latest players to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, meaning they get unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the year. Both are playing at Colonial this week. ... Joie Chitwood, the tournament director of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, will be the executive director of the Presidents Cup in 2026 when it is played at Medinah outside Chicago.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Dustin Johnson has not finished closer than seven shots of the winner in the 10 majors he has played since winning the Masters in November 2020.
“When he gets in contention he’s like a shark in the water. He smells blood.” — Jon Rahm on Brooks Koepka in the majors.
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