Some take on the challenge that is easily available. Some roll the dice and play their other options. Sometimes you fail, and sometimes you succeed.
Specifically, we’re talking about the May 20 IFQ for the Open Championship at Gleneagles in Plano, Texas.
Sang-Moon Bae, Tim Clark, Marc Leishman and Martin Laird are four different players who looked at things differently and wound up with varying results.
First, Bae. Having won the HP Byron Nelson Championship on May 19, he promptly withdrew from the IFQ at Gleneagles. The thought process was this – he had moved to 64th in the world, and if he played very well at Colonial he’d move inside the top 50 to get into the Open.
Bae made the cut at Colonial, but he finished in a tie for last among those who played 72 holes. He went the other way in the OWGR, to 65th.
Clark? At 53rd in the world as of May 19, he also chose to skip the IFQ. In essence, the South African chose what could have been viewed as a 72-hole qualifier, the Nelson. Clearly, he liked his chances, more so than a 36-holer in one day. He sounded confident, too, confirming that “I have my visa and everything set; I just need to play well.”
Unlike Bae, Clark did exactly that. Shooting 65-69 on the weekend, Clark roared into a share of seventh, which pushed him to 48th in the world order, so he can punch his ticket to Muirfield.
Laird and Leishman went into the IFQ with better rankings than Bae (53 and 58, respectively) but didn’t want to pass up any chance to earn Open Championship slots. They both played at Gleneagles; they both failed to earn a spot. Neither mounted much of a threat at Colonial, so at 56 and 60 in the world order, they do not qualify.
What chances do Bae, Laird and Leishman have to get into the Open at Muirfield? Win the John Deere Classic (July 11-14) or finish as one of the top five on the FedEx Cup points list within the top 20 who are not already qualified. Presently, of the top 20 on that list, the top five who are not already qualified are Billy Horschel, Boo Weekley, Charles Howell III, Jimmy Walker and Russell Henley.
Bae, who is 20th on the FEC points list, is sixth. Laird sits 23rd in FEC points, Leishman 46th.
Of course, that category has a way to go. Six more tournaments count, and it won’t be until after the Greenbrier (July 7) that it will be cut off.
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STRIKE ONE, STRIKE TWO: Sang-Moon Bae not only failed to move up and earn an Open Championship spot, he missed the top-60 cutoff to get an exemption into the U.S. Open. That’s the bad news.
The good? Since the May 27 cutoff for invites to the U.S. Open extends 10 spots deeper than the Open Championship, Freddie Jacobson (51) and Richard Sterne (52) are into the party at Merion.
They lost out on Open Championship spots in the last week, having been replaced inside the top 50 by Clark and Matteo Manassero.
Horschel (53), Henley (57) and Leishman (60) also nailed down U.S. Open spots.
Bae is signed on for a 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier Monday in Columbus, Ohio.
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MOVING FAST, COMING BACK: When a PGA Tour-like tournament breaks out Monday at the U.S. Open sectional in Columbus, Spencer Levin will be part of the field. He hasn’t played competitively since the Deutsche Bank Championship last Labor Day weekend. He told reporters earlier this year that he had surgery to repair an ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.
Reportedly, Levin has no other plans for PGA Tour events until the 2014 season begins in October.
Not that Levin hasn’t been moving around – literally. He took part in something called the “Team IZOD Challenge” in one of the days leading up to Monday’s Indianapolis 500. Levin joined with 500 qualifier A.J. Allmendinger, who took the PGA Tour veteran in rides that got up to 140 mph.
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THIS ’N THAT: Fairway ahead, water left, bunkers right and five swing thoughts float through the mind:
• President Barack Obama for a second time has been named honorary chairman for the Presidents Cup. Shocker. Thought it was going to go to William Howard Taft.
• Doesn’t it ring hollow for golf’s most important leaders to be OK with discriminating against women, but not with anchoring? Anchoring? Peculiar perspectives on how to right the world.
• Tiger Woods has confirmed that he will play in Turkey in November. PGA Tour events sometimes don’t get notice until a week ahead of time. Money does amazing things, eh?
• If Tianlang Guan were to miss the cut at the Memorial and the next week in Memphis, can we all agree that it was a fun little ride, but enough’s enough. Give him an entry form for the U.S. Amateur. No more exemptions into the big leagues.
• Not a bad little Texas swing for Camilo Villegas. He’s the only one who made the cut at the Nelson (T-48), successfully advanced through the Open Championship IFQ, then made the cut at Colonial (T-26).
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KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY: Gary Woodland confirmed that he has been working these days mostly with Claude Harmon III, Butch’s son. Part of that is out of convenience, because Woodland lives in Orlando, Claude has a teaching facility in Palm City, Fla., and Butch is entrenched in Las Vegas. Part of it is by design.
“It’s a team thing,” Butch Harmon said. “We do the same thing for D.J. (Dustin Johnson) and Nick (Watney).”
Woodland, who had Claude by his side to walk 18 holes during a recent practice round at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, is fine with the situation.
“Claude says the same thing as Butch,” he said. “The main thing he told me was, ‘You’re ready.’ “
For three rounds of the Nelson, Woodland looked it, too, shooting 69-65-68 to put himself near the top. He stumbled, however, with a final-round 79 but remained buoyant. “I love where my game is,” he said.
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COMPLIMENTS TO THE CHEFS: Had you been covering a baseball game and a potential interview subject said he was going to come at you with a few sliders, chances are you would have ducked.
But golfers being more genteel, it wasn’t as frightening when Ryan Palmer offered a few sliders after Round 1 of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
Fact is, the Buffalo-style sliders were delicious, though for the record, let’s give credit to Jen Palmer, Ryan’s better half; we’re sure she had much to do with the recipe. The tasty bites – little burgers with blue cheese crumbles, red hot sauce and Hawaiian sweet rolls – were big hits with media members.
There was a great purpose to the idea, too. The sliders were supplied by the Palmers to help promote “Beyond the Fairways and Greens: A Look Inside the Lives of PGA Tour families.”
The book was published to help commemorate 25 years of the PGA Tour Wives’ Association, and dozens of favorite recipes are contributed.
Ryan Palmer did offer a confession of sorts (“I don’t like blue cheese”), but he takes on his home duties with a passion. “I’m a big fan of the grill,” he said. “That’s my specialty. I’m confident I make a pretty good steak.”
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LOST, THEN FOUND: At the close of his first round at Colonial, Zach Johnson looked a bit harried, though it was not owed to his 1-under 69 that left him seven strokes back. Instead, his precious ball mark was missing.
“I’m not superstitious, but I’m sentimental,” Johnson said. He said how he had used the small, round silver marker – which his wife had given him from an old dog tag – “for every competitive round I’ve ever played,” dating to 2003. That was his last year on the Web.com Tour, so Johnson was talking serious attachment – more than 240 tournaments, including nine wins, notably the unforgettable 2007 Masters.
Words of inspiration are inscribed on each side – Proverbs 3:5-6 on one, Matthew 6:33 on the other – so it was with great relief that Johnson found the marker the next day, just before Round 2. He went on to shoot 65-68-66 and finish third.
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FATHER-DAUGHTER FUN: His absence from the Memorial Tournament truly validates Steve Stricker’s commitment to his 2013 semi-retirement. But he has added one tournament to his schedule, though a question about it surprised Stricker.
“Which one?” Stricker asked.
Why, the CVS Charity Classic (June 24-25), the Brad Faxon-Billy Andrade event that will celebrate its 15th anniversary. Stricker smiled. Indeed, he confirmed he had agreed after years of requests to play.
“I’ve been friends with Brad and Billy for years, but there’s always been a reason I couldn’t go, like a family vacation or it wasn’t a good fit in the schedule,” Stricker said.
Not only does this year work schedule-wise, but the clincher was when his 14-year-old daughter Bobbi agreed to caddie. “She’s all fired up to do it,” said Stricker, whose wife, Nicki, used to caddie for him full-time and works one tournament a year still.
Stricker isn’t the only one who’ll be enjoying the CVS Charity camaraderie. Nick Price, who hasn’t played competitively since last August, will be in action at Rhode Island Country Club.
Price tore two tendons in his left arm early in the 2012 season, sat out about 15 weeks, played a full tournament, then withdrew from another the next week. He hasn’t played since, so the CVS Charity will give him a chance to re-enter without much stress.