Wisconsin - Steve Stricker always knew he would have to take the toughest road to
make it into the first US Open in his native Wisconsin.
That made it
all the more rewarding when he earned his place at Erin Hills through a
36-hole qualifier on Monday.
And the 50-year-old Stricker did it in style.
than just earning one of the nine spots in the Tennessee qualifier,
Stricker closed with a wedge to tap-in birdie range to cap off a 67-65
day and finish first among the nine qualifiers.
"It means a lot,"
"It's been at the forefront of my thinking for a while
now. It's kind of a relief knowing I got in on my own terms. I went
through qualifying. I'd rather have it that way. I'm glad I did it this
The US Open starts June 15 at Erin Hills, a public course
built on pristine pastureland in Wisconsin that only opened in 2006.
Stricker was asked by the original owner, Bob Lang, and USGA executives
to come along for a site visit to give a pro's perspective.
He knew he
would be 50 when the US Open came to Erin Hills. He never knew it
would be such an ordeal getting there. But he made it, and it all felt
Andy North has two US Open titles, but no Wisconsin
native has more PGA Tour victories than Stricker's 12 titles, which took
him as high as No 2 in the world.
He even wrote a welcome message for
the official US Open programme, which surely will read a lot better now
that he's playing.
"Isn't that something?" he said with a laugh.
"I almost wanted to call them and tell them to take it out."
the 10 sectional qualifiers across the country to fill most of the
156-man field, Stricker attracted the most attention.
and agent, Mario Tiziani, urged him to ask for a special exemption,
though Stricker figured he wouldn't get one.
He didn't, but it motivated him.
that I deserved one, but it's been driving me to achieve this goal," he
"And I'm just happy that I'm going to get to play. It's a relief
to get to play in the first one in my home state."
The largest qualifier was in Columbus because of so many PGA Tour players who were in town for the Memorial.
Cink was among the 14 qualifiers at Lakes and Brookside. The start was
delayed just over two hours because of overnight rain, and it was likely
not to finish because of darkness and a playoff for the final spots.
didn't even try to qualify last year after his wife, Lisa, was
diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer a year ago April. She now is doing
well enough to travel with him, and that includes a trip to Wisconsin.
been a tough thing," Cink said.
"I was not in competitive form last
year. We were right in the midst of Lisa's treatment, and we were
focused on that, so I didn't even try to qualify. To come back this year
and get through successfully, it really means a lot to me."
US Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau, coming off five straight
missed cuts, found his form just in time with rounds of 69-66 to
Keegan Bradley also got in. He played 21 straight majors dating
to his PGA Championship victory as a rookie in 2011, and he missed the
Masters this year when his five-year exemption from the PGA Championship
PGA Tour rookie J.T. Poston led all qualifiers in Columbus and will play in his first major.
In other qualifiers:
- Joaquin Niemann of Chile, the No 1 amateur in the world, birdied the
last hole to get into a playoff and beat Eugene Hong to earn the final
spot in Florida. Also getting through was Jack Maguire and Tyson
Alexander, the son of retired Florida golf coach Buddy Alexander.
- Alex Smalley and Stephan Jaeger, the German who once shot 58 on the
Web.com Tour, earned the two spots from Georgia. The first alternate
from that sectional was Davis Love IV. His father, the former PGA
champion and two-time Ryder Cup captain, failed to earn his spot in
- Sam Ryder opened with a 62 at Woodmont Country Club and easily earned one of three spots in the Maryland qualifier.
- Two-time PGA Tour winner Daniel Chopra led the qualifier in New Jersey,
where amateur Chris Crawford made it into the US Open for the second
straight year, both times by going through 18 holes of local qualifying
and the 36-hole sectional qualifying.
- In the other Ohio
qualifier, Ryan Brehm birdied his last two holes for a 63 to earn the
last of four spots without having to go to a playoff. Canadian Corey
Conners was the medalist after opening with a 61 at Springfield Country
- The Tennessee qualifier also had several PGA Tour players
ahead of this week's FedEx St. Jude Classic. Those who joined Stricker
in getting through included Harris English and Andres Romero. At least
five players would battle in a playoff for the last two spots.
- Nick Flanagan will be in his second straight US Open, last year as a
caddie and now as a player. The former US Amateur champion earned one
of three spots in Texas. A year ago, Flanagan returned to Oakmont to
caddie for fellow Aussie Aron Price.
- In California, US
Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad will play a second straight major.
He was low amateur at the Masters and was among six qualifiers.
- Jordan Niebrugge gave Wisconsin another native to cheer at Erin Hills.
Niebrugge, from Mequon, Wisconsin, was among the four qualifiers in the
Washington sectional. He was low amateur in the British Open at St.
Andrews two years ago.
When the Columbus and Tennessee playoffs
are completed on Tuesday morning, that will make 150 players in the field.
The USGA has set aside six spots for anyone who cracks the top 60 in the
world ranking after this week.