Making it to Muirfield: Jerry Kelly wasn’t the only winner at the Advil Western Open. Fifteen players qualified for the July 18-21 British Open during a competition within the tournament.
Seven players qualified off earnings from The Players Championship and the five most recent PGA Tour events through the Western: Stephen Ames, Chris Smith, Jeff Maggert, Tim Petrovic, Jonathan Kaye, Peter Lonard and Jim Carter.
Lonard, who has made the cut in all of his 16 Tour starts this year, closed with 65 at the Western and tied for fifth, worth $135,600. He bumped out David Gossett, who led the Western first round before slipping to 27th. Gossett missed the British by $41,193.
The top eight Western finishers not already exempt also qualified for the Open: Brandt Jobe, Stuart Appleby, Duffy Waldorf, Chris Riley, Neal Lancaster, Steve Stricker, John Riegger and Bob Tway. Stricker closed with 65 to tie for 13th.
Just missing was David Frost, who played in the final twosome in the 1987 Open at Muirfield. Frost would have gotten in had he made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, though afterward he said he wasn’t aware of that.
A tiebreaker using final-round scores for those tying for 15th at the Western put Riegger (69) and Tway (71) in ahead of Frost (72), who will try to qualify July 14-15 in Scotland.
Charles Howell III, one of golf’s best young players, also won’t be going to Muirfield. Since he chose to not travel overseas for qualifying, his last shot was the Western, where he missed the cut with 77-69.
Jobe said he’s undecided about going to the British because of his wife’s difficult pregnancy. He entered the Western with a fourth-round scoring average of 72.78, ranking 158th on Tour, but he closed with 66 and placed third, his best finish in 138 starts. After shooting 77-78 and missing the cut the week before in Memphis, Jobe got help from his instructor, Mike McGetrick.
Waldorf will miss the birthdays of two of his four children the week of the British Open, where he tied for 25th in 1992. “I’ll have to celebrate with them after,” he said.
Woods withdraws: Major news of the week was the Tuesday withdrawal of two-time Western winner Tiger Woods because of flu-related symptoms. Woods had committed to play the Wednesday before, and had played every Western since turning pro. He has used it as a tuneup for the British Open.
Woods was back in Orlando, Fla., on Monday of Western week after serving as best man in the California wedding of close friend Jerry Chang over the weekend. Western midway leader John Cook, like Woods a resident of the posh Isleworth gated community near Orlando, said he saw Woods on Western Monday and said he was under the weather.
“He was toast,” Cook said of the man who has won seven of the last 11 majors, including the first half of the Grand Slam this year. “Winning the U.S. Open took a lot out of him, and it didn’t hit him until a week or two later.”
Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, said he expects the world’s No. 1 player to be fine by the British. Woods was scheduled to go on an annual golf and fishing trip to Ireland the week before the Open. Among those set to join him were Mark O’Meara, David Duval and Scott McCarron. They were to stay at The K Club near Dublin, site of the 2006 Ryder Cup Matches, and helicopter to various courses. Cook usually has made the trip, but will miss this year to accompany his son, Jason, 16, to the Junior World event in San Diego.
Hnatiuk battles barriers: Two days after shooting 77 and blowing a four-shot, 54-hole lead at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, fourth-year Tour player Glen Hnatiuk admitted he “needs to dig deeper to overcome mental hurdles.” His self-exploration testifies to the importance of mental toughness on the PGA Tour.
“I’ve got a lot of barriers,” said Hnatiuk, who dropped to a tie for 14th at the FedEx. “You can count on two hands the times I’ve been in position for a top 10 or top 5 and then did something stupid in order to finish 20th. I need to improve on that somehow, some way.”
Hnatiuk, who works with Orlando-based mental coach Patrick Cohn, led after each of the first three rounds in Memphis, then found himself in new territory.
“I had nothing to rely on but my game,” he said. “I thought that would be enough. It was new, but I didn’t realize I’d blow myself out of the water like that. I’d told my caddie, if I had this (fingers an inch apart) much more confidence, it would go a long way.”
Number crunching: After starting the year at No. 109 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, Lonard has improved 60 spots to No. 49 after four consecutive top-20 finishes, including a tie for fifth at the Western Open.
Short shots: Cook, 44, on going back to the British Open at Muirfield, where he bogeyed the last hole in 1992 and lost to Nick Faldo by one stroke: “I’ve got a lot of fond memories of that place. I feel like I’m a better player, feel like I could handle it if I got in that situation again. I’m ready to get back there.” . . . More Cook, this time on the many Hall of Famers Jack Nicklaus competed against in his prime: “Tiger Woods would beat the brains out of all those guys.” . . . Third-round leader Robert Allenby eagled the 519-yard 15th in the second and third rounds. He was 10 under on the par 5s through three rounds, but played them 1 over during a final-round 75 that dropped him to a tie for 10th. . . . Cog Hill’s Dubsdread Course lost one of its landmarks eight days before the Western began. The large oak tree on the left side of the 10th fairway, which for years forced players to hit drives down the right, was destroyed by a wind storm. It had been weakened by a lightning strike a couple of years earlier. A smaller replacement will be planted. . . . No rookies have won this year on Tour, but five have finished second. . . . Joey Sindelar has made the cut in 18 of 19 Westerns. . . . For the third time in four years, the defending champion missed the cut. Scott Hoch was a shot shy this year.
– Jeff Rude
Next up: British Open, July 18-21, Muirfield Golf Club, Gullane, Scotland. Defending champion: David Duval.
Next up: B.C. Open, July 18-21, En-Joie Golf Club, Endicott, N.Y. Defending champion: Jeff Sluman.
The buzz: Ty Tryon, 18, now a full member of the Tour, returns to action after missing four months with illness.