Several pros earn trips to Augusta National

Several pros earn trips to Augusta National

Carl Pettersson, above, and John Merrick tied for sixth at 3-over 287.
Fred Vuich/SI

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Either Tiger Woods or Rocco Mediate will hoist the U.S. Open trophy after an 18-hole playoff Monday.

As far as consolation prizes go, John Merrick and Carl Pettersson scored two big ones Sunday.

They tied for sixth at 3-over 287, good enough to earn an invitation to the Masters and an exemption from qualifying for next year’s U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.

Not bad for two guys who had to go through qualifiers to get here.

The top eight get Masters invites and the top 15 are welcomed back to the U.S. Open.

Pettersson, of Sweden, shot a 3-under 68 on Sunday at Torrey Pines. Merrick, from up the freeway in Long Beach, had a 71.

It was the second Open for Merrick, who missed the cut in 2005.

“To play well like this is pretty gratifying,” said Merrick, a UCLA graduate who had rounds of 73-72-71-71.

“It was one of those weeks where I had a good frame of mind and I just played consistent all week and never got out of my mode all week,” he said. “Never got too excited. Never got too (upset) if something happened and just kind of moved on and just did my best.

“That was pretty cool.”

Also earning invitations to the Masters and an exemption from qualifying for the 2009 U.S. Open are Lee Westwood (even-par 284); Robert Karlsson and D.J. Trahan (2-over 286); and Miguel Angel Jimenez, who tied with Merrick and Pettersson.

Jimenez birdied the 18th, which wound up taking away a Masters invite from Eric Axley, who needed the top-eight finish to assure himself of a trip to Augusta. Axley finished in a tie for ninth at 288. Axley does get to come back to the U.S. Open.

Mediate, who had to make it through qualifying to get here, is assured of all that, and maybe more.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, HEATH: Heath Slocum gave himself a nice Father’s Day gift with a 6-under 65 on Sunday, the best score in a U.S. Open since Vijay Singh shot 63 in the second round in 2003.

“That was obviously one of the better rounds I’ve ever played,” Slocum said after making six birdies and no bogeys. “I hit the ball pretty good at times, but I kept it out of bad trouble. And I made a lot of putts today.”

Slocum was in a good mood, in part because he was thinking about his 6-month-old daughter, Stella.

“It was just a lot of fun out there I was enjoying myself, a good, solid frame of mind. I went out and had fun and played well.”

He tied for ninth at 4-over 288, giving him an exemption into next year’s Open.

LOVE HURTS: Davis Love III was two shots behind going into the weekend and wound up in a tie for 53rd with a 76-78 weekend.

It wasn’t hard to see how he did it.

Love failed to make a single birdie during the weekend and he played the par 5s in 3 over.

TOP AMATEUR: It’s been a big year so far for Michael Thompson, and it’s about to get bigger.

Thompson finished as the low amateur at the U.S. Open with an 8-over 292 at Torrey Pines’ South Course, tied for 29th. He finished with his best round of the tournament, a 1-over 72.

“I learned that I have a lot more composure than I thought I did,” Thompson said. “I never gave up this week and I’m very proud of that. The last couple days I’ve gotten off to some pretty bad starts and played 1-under there on in. I mean, that speaks more than if I would have finished second, you know, to me, I learn more from that.”

Thompson was the runner-up at last year’s U.S. Amateur, losing 2 and 1 to Colt Knost at the Olympic Club. Thompson also played in this year’s Masters, although he missed the cut.

Thompson plans to play in the Travelers next week as an amateur, play in the Palmer Cup as an amateur in Scotland and then turn pro.

“I feel like I belong out here. This is fun,” he said. “This is a great experience for me. I don’t feel any different than the rest of the pros out here.”

Thompson has gotten his golf career back on track after it was interrupted by Hurricane Katrina. Tulane disbanded its golf team after the storm devastated New Orleans and Thompson transferred to Alabama.

HAPPY LEFTY/SAD LEFTY: Phil Mickelson had dueling emotions as he finished the first U.S. Open played in his hometown.

Lefty’s self-proclaimed “once-in-lifetime opportunity” to hoist his first U.S. Open trophy had long since ended before he finally played his first sub-par round at Torrey Pines’ South Course, a 3-under 68 on Sunday. He finished at 6-over 290, tied for 18th, done in by rounds of 75 on Friday and then Saturday’s 76, when he had a quadruple-bogey 9 on the 13th hole.

“I think that as I look back I am so proud to be from San Diego and to have this Open championship here at Torrey Pines. And the golf course was, again, I think the best, fairest setup it’s ever been. The mixture of tee boxes, the pin placements were all perfect to give the best players a chance to separate themselves.

“I’m disappointed I didn’t play well, but I’m not disappointed the way this championship is shaping into form and the way that San Diego has been presented. This has been awesome.”

Mickelson teed off at 9:20 a.m. Sunday, just more than four hours before the final group, Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood. In fact, he had just finished his 18 holes when Westwood and Woods were walking toward the first tee.

Asked if he was going to stick around to watch, he said: “I’ll probably watch some of it, yeah. It’s kind of my punishment.”

Lefty, by the way, turns 38 on Monday. “I kind of need a day off,” he said.

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