The great thing about the U.S. Open is it doesn’t matter who you are, you can still get a spot in the 156-man field. The terrible thing about the U.S. Open is it doesn’t matter who you are, you can still be left out of the 156-man field. Even Tiger Woods could see his 10-year exemption run out in 2018. Say what?!
It’s true. And it’s not just Woods. Stewart Cink. Bryson DeChambeau. Ian Poulter. The top 60 in the World Ranking as of May 23 are already in; anyone who nudges his way into the top 60 by June 13 will also get in. That leaves plenty of big names, some of them major champions, needing to play their way into the field at Oakmont, June 16-19.
Here are some surprises pegging it next week’s 36-hole sectionals:
1. Luke Donald, 38, of England, was once No. 1 in the world. Now he’s 77th.
2. Ian Poulter, 40, has played in 12 consecutive U.S. Opens and is a Ryder Cup giant. He’s also fallen to 85th in the World Ranking. (He announced Friday that he’s taking off four months to heal his injured foot, so he’ll miss the Open. But still, he would have had to qualify.)
3. Vijay Singh, 53, of Fiji, has played in 18 U.S. Opens and has seven top-10 finishes. He tied for third at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1999. But the USGA doesn’t care about the thickness of your resume—or your wallet.
4. Woody Austin, 52, has won three Champions tour titles this year, but hitting a lot of quality shots on Golf Channel counts for nothing when it comes to U.S. Open qualifying; senior wins don’t come with world ranking points.
5. Lee Janzen, 51, of Orlando, won the 1993 and ’98 U.S. Opens, making him one of 18 players with multiple titles. But winning comes with only a 10-year free pass, and special exemptions are hard to come by.
6. Stewart Cink, 43, has played in 19 U.S. Opens and won the 2009 British Open, but the claret jug comes with only a five-year U.S. Open exemption.
7. Bryson DeChambeau, 22, of Clovis, Calif., in 2015 became the fifth player to win the U.S. Amateur and NCAA championship in the same year. That got him into the Masters, where he was in contention and earned plenty of airtime through 35 holes. Alas, he lost his U.S. Open invite by turning pro. (And, sorry, Bryson, sponsor’s invitations don’t fly in our national championship.)
8. Davis Love III, 52, of Sea Island, Ga., won just last year at the Wyndham Championship, and has 21 Tour titles. Alas, he’s also ranked 173rd.
9. Jamie Lovemark, 28, tied for 18th at last year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, but only the top 10 and ties from Chambers get into the field at Oakmont.
10. Hunter Mahan, 34, has fallen all the way to 143rd in the ranking.
11. Tony Finau, 26, won the Puerto Rico Open this year, and tied for 10th at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits last summer. You’d think that somewhere in there might be an invite to Oakmont. Alas, there is not, and at 80th in the world, Finau has to prove himself over 36 holes next week.
12. Trevor Immelman, 36, won the 2008 Masters, but don’t confuse a lifetime invite to Augusta with a lifetime invite to the U.S. Open. Sorry. No such thing.