One of the most exhilarating days on the golf calendar unfolded Monday in the form of U.S. Open sectional qualifying. Ten sectional events played concurrently punched 53 more tickets to Erin Hills. Here are the biggest stories of the day:
American Airlines whiffs
Golfers need equipment, sure, but most golfers need their equipment, and Michael Buttacavoli was out of luck Monday. The PGA Tour Latinoamerica player was scheduled to play in the Jupiter Hills sectional qualifier in Tequesta, Fla., but his golf clubs didn’t make the trip, thanks to an American Airlines snafu. So Buttacavoli withdrew. Understandably, he was not pleased and did his best to roast the airline on Twitter.
Stricker will play a home game, after all
Steve Stricker is from Wisconsin and desperately wanted to play in the first men's U.S. Open in his home state. He even went so far as to request a special exemption from the USGA. When that was denied, he had one last option: qualify on merit. That's exactly what he did, shooting rounds of 67 and 65 to not only qualify but also to win the sectional in Memphis. As for the home crowd in Wisconsin, they'll also have Jordan Niebrugge to cheer for. The 23-year-old qualified in Washington with his dad on the bag.
Familiar name: Hagestad in again
U.S. Mid-Am champion and Masters low amateur Stewart Hagestad will play with the pros for a second-straight major. Hagestad was one of six players to qualify in Newport Beach, Calif., after shooting rounds of 67 and 68.
Seven under not good enough in Ohio
A field full of PGA Tour players made life difficult for everyone else in Columbus, Ohio. J.T. Poston, Jason Kokrak, Bud Cauley, Martin Laird, Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink, Jamie Lovemark, and Bryson DeChambeau—we could go on—all qualified in the loaded field. That kept great players like Johnson Wagner, Ollie Schniederjans, Kevin Tway, Vijay Singh and others out of the 2017 Open.
Beef is back
Andrew "Beef" Johnston qualified in England—albeit not yesterday, but last week—and will play the U.S. Open for the second straight year. He did it in style, too. Beef made two eagles and an ace during his sectional qualifier to eclipse the 7-man playoff by just one shot.
One good round isn't good enough
This rule could be applied to countless players during the second stage of qualifying, but it certainly felt like one round would be enough for David Oraee. The Colorado native shot 64 in his first round Monday at the Texas qualifier, finishing birdie-birdie-birdie-ace-par-eagle and holding the 18-hole lead. In a cutthroat field where only three would qualify, Oraee’s second-round 73 was his undoing.
From caddie to player
Nick Flanagan blitzed Lakewood Country Club in the Texas qualifier with rounds of 68 and 63, using three straight birdies to polish off his second 18 holes of the day. That means he'll be back at the U.S. Open, where he also appeared last year—as a caddie. Flanagan, a former U.S. Amateur champ, looped for Australian Aron Price at Oakmont (where he won his U.S. Am title). This means Price has to return the favor and caddie for Flanagan, right?
Sleep on it
As if two rounds weren't tense enough, two qualifiers required extra time. The Memphis and Columbus events both called for Tuesday playoffs. In Memphis, three players are playing for two spots, while in Columbus it’s four players vying for three spots. (Update: Peter Uihlein, Talor Gooch and Scottie Scheffler grabbed the final three openings in Columbus.)
U.S. OPEN SECTIONAL QUALIFIERS
Newport Beach, Calif.
John Oda (a)
Mason Andersen (a)
Stewart Hagestad (a)
Sahith Theegala (a)
Cameron Champ (a)
Joaquin Niemann (a)
Ball Ground, Ga.
Alex Smalley (a)
Christopher Crawford (a)
Scott Harvey (a)
Ted Potter Jr.
Scottie Scheffler (a)
Walker Lee (a)
Ono City, Japan