OU's Stuard, MSU's Brehm qualify for U.S. Open

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Eh, what's 36 holes?

Brian Stuard of Jackson shot rounds of 66 and 65 to finish at 9 under at sectional qualifying at Springfield Country Club in Ohio.

That's practically nothing for Jackson's Brian Stuard, who's played a whole lot of golf lately — and now will get to play some more, after qualifying Monday for his third U.S. Open appearance.

Stuard shot rounds of 66 and 65 to finish at 9 under at sectional qualifying at Springfield Country Club in Ohio, good for a second-place showing when four U.S. Open invitations were up for grabs.

Fellow PGA Tour member Ryan Brehm, a Mount Pleasant native and Michigan State alum, roared back from an even-par opening round to fire a blistering 7-under 63 in the second to secure the fourth and final bid. Brehm will be making his first appearance in a major championship when the U.S. Open heads to Erin Hills in Wisconsin in two weeks.

Both Stuard and Brehm got to skip local qualifying, because of their PGA Tour status.

Stuard, the Oakland University alum, made just one bogey on the day, putting beautifully on some treacherous greens.

"For the most part, they had some pretty tricky greens around here. And I seem to have a really good feel for them. That was kind of the key," Stuard said. "Putting was the difference for me."

Stuard made a couple 25-footers in his opening round, which was bogey-free.

He then drained a slippery, downhill slider for birdie at the par-3 13th in the second round, giving him the momentum to finish strong and claim one of those golden tickets.

U.S. Open sectional qualifying is given the moniker, "The Longest Day," because 36 holes typically are a grind. But Stuard said it's not so much physical, but mental, especially with the greens.

"You just kind of have to pay attention," he said. "Just watch yourself. There's so much slope on the greens. It's important to keep your focus."

The physical stuff isn't anything new for Stuard, 34, who likes to play tournaments four or five weeks in a row. The played The Players Championship in Florida, followed by the Byron Nelson and the Dean & Deluca Invitational in Texas, followed by the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, this weekend. Stuard finished tied for 52nd place at Jack Nicklaus' tournament Sunday, then made the 45-minute trek over to Springfield for qualifying.

Now, he'll play the St. Jude Classic in Tennessee this week, before heading to Wisconsin. He just can't seem to put the clubs down.

"I guess not," Stuard said, laughing.

Stuard has played in four majors — he missed the cut in the U.S. Open in 2013 and 2014, finished tied for 79th at least year's PGA Championship, and then tied for 36th at this year's Masters.

As for Brehm, playing for the first time since the Byron Nelson in mid-May, he'll be making his major debut. His opening-round 70 was three shots higher than any of the rounds shot by the other three qualifiers Monday, but he rallied furiously in the afternoon with a front-nine 33, followed by a back-nine 30. He birdied eight of his last 15 holes and three of his last four, needing every one of them with a hard-charging field.

Kansas golfer Chase Hanna, one of the last players on the course, birdied his 17th hole of the day to get one back of Brehm. But needing birdie on the last to force a playoff, he bogeyed the tough par 3 — which had only been birdied twice all afternoon. Finally, Brehm could exhale.

Michigan junior-to-be Nick Carlson, who made the Final Four in last year's U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills, was on fire early in the day, opening with 66, and was inside the cut line for much of his afternoon round, before he bogeyed four of his final seven holes. He was 2 under on the day.

Canada's Corey Conners (12 under) and Missouri's Brice Garnett (8 under) were the other qualifiers in Springfield, one of 10 courses to host sectionals in the United States on Monday.