Notes: 'Bama trio lights it up in U.S. Open sectionals
Back-to-back national championships speaks volumes for the talent that has been on stage at Alabama. But in case you wonder if they can play outside of the comforts of college golf, check out the numbers they shot in Monday’s U.S. Open sectional qualifying: 66-66 for Cory Whitsett, 70-66 for Robby Shelton, 67-70 for Justin Thomas.
Whitsett was medalist in Houston, Shelton got through in Memphis and Thomas was tied for low score in Columbus, Ohio.
Shelton recently completed his freshman year at 'Bama, while Whitsett recently graduated and will join Thomas, who left after last season, in the pro ranks.
• • •
CHANGE OF PLANS: Jason Dufner can spend the Fourth of July at home now that Asian Tour officials have postponed the Chiangmai Golf Classic.
Dufner had signed to play in the Bangkok tournament July 3-6, but in light of the turmoil brought on by the military coup in Thailand, sensible minds stepped up and called timeout to the event.
There’s been a curfew in most of the country since the May 22 uprising.
Tentatively, officials have said they will play the tournament later this year.
• • •
PROUD OF THE NATIVE SONS: If there was an overwhelming sense of pride within the corridors of the Massachusetts Golf Association offices Tuesday, it was well deserved. Three Bay State natives and former MGA champions earned their way into the upcoming U.S. Open through sectional qualifying in Purchase, N.Y. Fran Quinn Jr., 49, and Rob Oppenheim, 34, shared medalist honors at 138, while Jim Renner, 30, was next at 139.
Quinn won the Massachusetts Open in 1990, Renner in 2008, Oppenheim in 2009. Quinn (1986) and Oppenheim (2002) also are former winners of the Mass. Amateur.
While it will be the first major championship for Renner, who is on the PGA Tour this year, and Oppenheim, who has Web.com Tour status, Quinn has played in three previous U.S. Opens, including the 1992 edition at Pebble Beach. As a testament to how long Quinn has been at his profession, the only competitor at Pinehurst who can boast of a start in that 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble is Phil Mickelson.
• • •
NEW PARTNER: If Jeff Sluman is to defend his title at this week's Legends of Golf, he’ll have to do so without the man who helped him win in 2013, Brad Faxon. Instead, Sluman will play beside Fred Funk in the two-man event, now named the Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf, in Ridgedale, Mo.
Faxon will be home in Barrington, R.I., attending daughter Sophie's high school graduation.
• • •
STARS WILL BE OUT: While at home, Faxon will be able to help put some finishing touches on the annual CVS Caremark Charity Classic, which he hosts with fellow Rhode Islander Billy Andrade on June 23-24 at Rhode Island Country Club in Barrington. The 20-player field was finalized Wednesday morning for the two-person team event.
Defending champions Steve Stricker and Bo Van Pelt will be back, as will the 2012 winners, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson. Hunter Mahan, Russell Henley and Billy Horschel will return for a second straight summer. There will be a mixture of new faces (Jonas Blixt, Jimmy Walker, Jason Dufner, Harris English, Erik Compton) among the returnees (Peter Jacobsen, Bill Haas). The women will be well represented with Juli Inkster, Morgan Pressel, Suzann Pettersen and Lexi Thompson.
• • •
IT CAN BE DONE: Much was made of the new priority-ranking category for those in the Web.com Final category. Arguably, it remains open for debate, but three players who began the year highly ranked in Category 25 proved that they were worthy of that lofty number by winning: No. 3 Chesson Hadley, No. 4 Seung-Yul Noh and No. 12 Brendon Todd.
Each has been elevated to Category 9, winners of PGA Tour events.
Ryo Ishikawa presently sits atop the Web.com Final priority list, having started the year 13th. Some of the bigger jumps: Jim Renner, 44th to fourth; Tim Wilkinson, 38th to sixth; Billy Hurley, 26th to 10th; Chad Collins, 25th to fifth; Brice Garnett, 23rd to seventh; and Hudson Swofford, 21st to 11th.
The worst drops: Andrew Svoboda, fifth to 23rd; Scott Gardiner, eighth to 19th; Edward Loar, ninth to 39th; and Patrick Cantlay, 11th to 40th.
Six players who began the season in Category 25 sit within the top 50 in FedEx Cup standings: Todd, ninth; Will MacKenzie, 25th; Noh, 28th; Russell Knox, 35th; Ishikawa, 41st; and Hadley, 48th.