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Nothing in Chad Collins’ 2014 resume offered an indication that he could pencil Pinehurst No. 2 onto his upcoming schedule.
Having missed the cut in nine of his last 12 starts, dating back to early February, Collins made just one bogey in each round and secured one of four spots available at Woodmont Country Club’s North Course in Rockville, Md.
Playing his last 14 holes in 4 under to post a 3-under 69 in the morning, Collins birdied two of the first five holes in the afternoon, then protected his standing with solid play from there on. With another 69, Collins finished at 6-under 138 to cruise to medalist honors.
Stready and comforting as Collins was, for other contenders it was vintage U.S. Open qualifying pressure.
Right, Billy Hurley?
“I’m too exhausted to feel good,” said the second-year PGA Tour member who earned his first spot into a major championship with a brilliant afternoon 67, low round of the day. Having posted 74 in the morning, Hurley was frustrated and thinking he might be only playing nine more holes if something good didn’t happen.
For the longest time, it didn’t, because he was 2 under on his round, level par for the competition, and thinking that “I needed to get to 4 under to make it.”
He was wrong, thankfully. He was also clutch when he had to be – a brilliant up-and-down at the par-5 15th, “the best hybrid of my life” from 217 yards to set up a 4-footer at 16, then an 8 iron to 3 feet at the 17th.
Birdie. Birdie. Birdie. And at 3-under 141 Hurley finished tied with David Constable (72-69) and Nicholas Mason (70-71) for the final three spots into the U.S. Open.
“I had been very frustrated in the morning. I got impatient,” Hurley said. “Then I reminded myself that it was a 36-hole competition.”
The former Naval Academy standout has been the model of patience for years, because unlike many of his collegiate peers, Hurley wasn’t able to step right into the pro game. First, he served his country. When he finally made it onto the PGA Tour in 2012, he was 29. He rode out a rough stretch that year, moved back to the Web.com Tour in 2013, and is back in the big leagues and playing much better this season.
His first major championship opportunity may have been a long time coming, but it might be better that way.
“I’m ready to play in a major championship,” he said. “I’m not sure if I would have been prepared had I qualified when I was younger. It might have been a disaster. But now, I’m ready to play a major, ready to play a U.S. Open. I’ve always played well at hard golf tournaments.”
A week shy of his 32nd birthday, Hurley is showing signs of gaining a more secure PGA Tour presence. He has made the cut in 11 of 17 starts, including each of the last three weeks – T-16 at the Nelson, T-30 at Colonial, T-37 at the Memorial. That’s the good news. The bad? Yesterday was the 21st straight day of golf, between practice, competition, and Monday outings, and Hurley concedes fatigue was a big factor.
“I think I’ll take tomorrow off,” he said, laughing, though he added that he’ll skip this week’s tournament in Memphis.
If Collins takes Tuesday off, it will only be to catch his breath before teeing it up at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, his 20th tournament of the season. He’d gladly accept a little bit of the momentum he had going for himself at Woodmont, because it’s not been the best of seasons for the 35-year-old from Indiana.
Then again, he was in form at an opportune time and because he was, Collins will get a chance for his second major championship (he was T-40 at the 2006 U.S. Open), something that eluded a familiar name at Woodmont.
Taylor Funk’s bid to do something his father never did – play in the U.S. Open as an amateur – started beautifully, but faded from reality. Fred Funk’s son, a freshman at the University of Texas, shot the best score in the morning, 68, but a bogey at 10, a double at 14, and a bogey at 17 sent him spiraling back down the leaderboard.
An afternoon 76 left Funk at even-par 144, tied for seventh.
His father, an eight-time PGA Tour winner, played in 22 U.S. Opens, including a T-23 at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005.
Like Taylor Funk, Jim Roy, 54, had a solid morning – a 69 – but three bogeys in his first seven holes in the afternoon halted his momentum and he fell well off the pace. Roy has played in two U.S. Opens and had a taste of Champions Tour competition.
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Short shots: Months into his rookie season on the PGA Tour, Patrick Cantlay remains a cautious work in progress. Having rested eight months to let a back injury heal, the 22-year-old teed it up for just the second time this year, but after a first-round 78 he withdrew from the Woodmont field. Cantlay, who secured his PGA Tour card by finishing 11th on the Web.com Tour priority list (in just nine tournaments), had finished T-71 a few weeks ago at the HP Byron Nelson Classic, his first action since last September. . . . John Mallinger defeated James Erkenbeck in a playoff to secure the first alternate spot. Erkenbeck will be second alternate. They had both finished at 143, two shots too high. . . . Japan’s Kamito Hirai opened with a 69 and was in great position, but ballooned to 76. . . . Matt Bettencourt opened with a 72, but after he doubled 15 and bogeyed 18, he withdrew at 3 over. . . . Jack Fields won’t get a chance for a little Pinehurst No. 2 deja vu. He won the 2011 North & South Amateur there, but the former Pinecrest High School and University of North Carolina standout shoot a morning 78 to take himself out of contention. . . . University of Richmond golf coach Adam Decker (79-84) failed to make it through.