Columbus, Ohio – — Alternates from U.S. Open sectional qualifiers were never more important as they were this year.
The USGA held back six spots from the 10 sectional qualifiers to make sure it could accommodate anyone who got into the top 60 in the world ranking after this week. It was a safe move because the U.S. Open field is capped at 156 players.
But there won’t be a lot of movement this year.
Chris Wood is at No. 60 in the world, and he would stay there provided Scott Piercy doesn’t finish among the top 20 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. So that’s one spot, maybe. But with Soren Kjeldsen withdrawing from the St. Jude Classic, only one other person has a mathematical chance to get into the top 60 in the world, and he would have to win the St. Jude Classic. That applies to only about five players, such as Ian Poulter and Hudson Swafford.
So at least four spots will be going to alternates, and that doesn’t even include Phil Mickelson, who plans to withdraw because of his daughter’s high school graduation.
It’s difficult to miss U.S. Open qualifying by one spot, but the playoffs to determine first alternates were critical this year.
Among the first alternates was Davis Love IV, who goes primarily by Dru and is the son of the two-time Ryder Cup captain.
He played in the Georgia sectional, which awarded the fewest spots (2) of any U.S. qualifier and could be high on the alternate list.
In Columbus, Michael Putnam was the only player who didn’t advance in the 4-for-3 playoff Tuesday morning, but he was first alternate. The first alternate in the Texas sectional was Ryan Palmer. Along with the 10 U.S. sectional qualifiers, there was one in Japan and one in England. Those sites also have an alternate.
The mystery is which alternate gets chosen first.
The USGA does not disclose the priority list, though it keeps in touch with players to allow them time to get to Wisconsin. The U.S. Open starts June 15 at Erin Hills.
The priority is based on a formula that includes how many spots each section was allocated, and the strength of field determined by the world ranking (pro and amateur).
U.S. Open qualifying
Peter Uihlein, the former U.S. Amateur champion playing on the European Tour, birdied the first extra hole in a 4-for-3 playoff in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday morning that determined the last of 14 spots from the 36-hole qualifier in Columbus.
Uihlein hit wedge to 5 feet for birdie on the 10th hole of The Lakes to advance. Talor Gooch and Scottie Scheffler made birdie on the fourth extra hole to get the other two spots. It was the second straight year that Scheffler, who just finished his junior year at Texas, earned a U.S. Open spot through a playoff at sectional qualifying.
J.T. Poston was the medalist from Columbus, not making a bogey until his 36th hole.
Columbus offered the most spots of the 10 sectional qualifiers because of all the PGA Tour players still in town after the Memorial. The next largest was in Tennessee because of the FedEx St. Jude Classic this week.
Steve Stricker led the ninth qualifier, earning a spot in his home state of Wisconsin as it hosts a U.S. Open for the first time. The U.S. Open starts June 15 at Erin Hills, a public course built on pristine pastureland that opened in 2006.
The Tennessee qualifier also required a playoff on Tuesday morning among five players seeking two spots. Those went to Jonathan Randolph and Xander Schauffele.
The sectional qualifiers put the field at 150 players, leaving six spots available in case anyone qualifies by being among the top 60 in the world ranking after this week. No more than three players not already exempt have a mathematical chance to get in the top 60. That means at least three alternates from qualifying will get in, a list that includes Dru Love, the son of Davis Love III.
The USGA has not decided the order of alternates from the 12 qualifiers (including England and Japan). Those are based on how many spots each sectional offered and the strength of field.