US Open sectional qualifying wrap

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

One of the great things about US Open qualifying each year is the number of storylines that emerge over the course of the 36-hole sectional qualifiers.

From the high profile players who tee up because they're not otherwise exempt to the rags to riches tales of career amateurs who finally earn their shot at glory.

Among those who missed out this year were two time US Open champion Lee Janzen (who won the last Open played at Olympic in 1998) and Rory Sabbatini who finished second to Tiger Woods at The Memorial last week.

1992 US Open winner Tom Kite, at the age of 62, proved dreams don't die by attempting to qualify in Texas and gave a reasonable count of himself, finishing T23.

Several high profile PGA Tour players didn't make it through including 2003 British Open winner Ben Curtis, former Ryder Cupper Jeff Overton and 54 hole leader from last week's Memorial Spencer Levin.

On the positive side Ryder Cup captain Davis Love will take his place in the field after surviving 36 holes in Ohio though his European counterpart, Jose Maria Olazabal, wasn't so lucky at an international qualifier in England last week.

At Black Diamond Ranch golf course in Florida 14-year-old Andy Zhang almost became the youngest qualifier in history but was beaten in a play-off for the final spot by Brooks Koepka.

But the best feel good story from this year's qualifiers happened in Oregon where Casey Martin, who sued the PGA Tour in 1998 to allow him to use a cart because of a crippling leg condition, got through.

Playing in the last group of the day Martin insisted on finishing and in virtual darkness made a clutch par saving putt to finish at 4 under and grab one of two qualifying spots.

The now college golf coach played the 1998 US Open at Olympic, finishing T20, and said last month he didn't expect to qualify but teed up for sentimental reasons.

“I’m trying this year because it’s Olympic,” he said.

“I wouldn'’t have done it anywhere else – it would be a fun story, but don’t hold your breath.

"I’m so competitively out of the mix, I literally have no expectations.

"Maybe I’ll play well, maybe I’ll embarrass myself. I don’t know.

"It’s going to have to be an act of God. I’m doing it to see if you can catch lightning in a bottle.”

In one of the most thrilling finishes seen all day, Martin proved you can.