One day, 36 holes, a berth in a national golf championship on the line.
There are few better for the task than Sacramento’s Kevin Sutherland, who survived the U.S. Open Sectional qualifying grind for the eighth time Monday to earn a spot in the field next week at Pinehurst in North Carolina.
Sutherland birdied four of his final eight holes at Olympic Club’s Ocean Course to complete an afternoon round of 4-under-par 67. Combined with a 2-under 70 at Lake Merced in the morning, his total was good for a fourth-place tie in the 110-player field in Daly City. The top five qualified.
Sutherland was the qualifying medalist last year at a sectional site in Tennessee. What makes him so effective at this particular pursuit?
“I’m sure there’s a reason,” he said. “I just don’t know what it is.”
Without PGA Tour exempt status this season for the first time in almost two decades, Sutherland has competed in one tournament in the past 10 months – he missed the cut last week on the Web.com Tour.
“I didn’t have any expectations,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to play badly. I didn’t think I was going to play good. I didn’t even look at the scoreboard (between rounds). I was just playing golf.”
This will be his 10th U.S. Open – and likely his final one, said Sutherland, who will turn 50 on July 4. His best finish is a tie for 28th in 2003.
He is exempt into the U.S. Senior Open in Oklahoma in July.
Leonard makes it back – In Columbus, Ohio, Justin Leonard earned a return to the U.S. Open after three years of coming up short in qualifying.
The 1997 British Open champion, who has won 12 times on the PGA Tour but not since 2008, was among the 16 players at the Columbus site who qualified for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst June 12-15.
“It’ll be fun,” said Leonard, who’ll turn 42 on the day of the Open’s final round. “And Pinehurst is one of my favorites, so a little extra incentive there.”
Leonard was co-medalist through 36 holes on Monday at Brookside and Scioto. He tied for 15th at the Open in Pinehurst in 1999 when Payne Stewart won and tied for 23rd in the 2005 championship won by Michael Campbell.
A year ago, Justin Thomas came down the stretch with a shot at qualifying only to finish bogey-bogey at Brookside and miss making the field by a shot. This year, he hit his second shot to the closing hole to almost exactly the same spot but was able to make a par. He finished at 5-under and shared medalist honors with Leonard and South Korea’s Seung-Yul Noh.
NCAA champion Cameron Wilson of Stanford missed qualifying for the U.S. Open by one shot in Purchase, N.Y.
Gambler denies wrongdoing – Las Vegas gambler Billy Walters, who is being investigated for possible insider trading involving golfer Phil Mickelson and investor Carl Icahn, says it’s “preposterous to think” he would be involved in any such activity.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.