Ace propels McCumber to second Open
ORLANDO, Fla. – Josh McCumber needed an ace to advance to the U.S. Open. Gary Woodland and amateur Tyson Alexander used final-hole birdies to earn their berths to Bethpage.
McCumber sank a 4-iron on the fly on Lake Nona Golf & Country Club’s 17th hole, then chipped in on the 18th to shoot a first-round 66. The former Florida All-American added a 2-under 70 in the afternoon to earn medalist honors at 8-under 136.
Alexander, a rising senior at Florida, and Woodland, a PGA Tour rookie, played in the same group Monday. Alexander’s 15-foot birdie on No. 18 capped an afternoon 66 that put him at 137 and earned him the second of three spots into the U.S. Open.
Woodland’s 8-footer on the final hole gave him rounds of 67-71 and put him in a playoff with Clinton Jensen at 138. Woodland, a Lake Nona member, made a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 10, the first playoff hole, to earn a spot in his first major.
McCumber last played Bethpage Black in 1991 in his first AJGA event.
“I’ve been looking forward to Bethpage all year,” said McCumber. “I put a little (picture) in my bathroom mirror to remind me to stay focused on it.”
This will be his second U.S. Open. He also qualified for Pinehurst in 2005, just as he was wrapping up his second and final season as an assistant coach at Florida, where he worked under longtime coach Buddy Alexander, Tyson’s father. Buddy Alexander won the 1986 U.S. Amateur, which earned him a spot in the ‘87 Open at Olympic Club. He also qualified in ‘94 at Oakmont.
McCumber, the nephew of former PGA Tour player Mark McCumber, has had an on-again, off-again pro career since graduating from Florida in ‘98.
His latest attempt at pro golf started in 2007 after the birth of his first child. He made the Q-School finals that year and played the Nationwide Tour in ‘08. He is playing mini-tours this year.
Tyson Alexander won this year’s Azalea Invitational, one of the country’s top amateur events. He’s ranked 17th in the United States in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com Amateur Rankings.
“Those last couple holes, I was fighting not to think about what was at stake,” Alexander said. “I was just trying to hit good golf shots. It’s hard when the U.S. Open is on the line.”
Alexander and Woodland were on the 16th green when play was halted because of rain and lightning. Both returned after a half-hour in the clubhouse to two-putt from about 50 feet. They both got up-and-down on the par-3 17th, Alexander with a 4-footer. Then they ended their up-and-down days in style.
In the morning, Alexander hit a ball out of bounds and into a water hazard. His front-nine 31 in the afternoon included a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 4, a 30-foot birdie on No. 6 and a 30-foot eagle putt on the ninth.
Woodland made just two pars on the front nine in the afternoon. He had four bogeys and three two-putt birdies after driving the par-4 fifth hole and reaching the par-5 second and ninth holes in two shots.
He is second on the PGA Tour in driving distance at 308.7 yards per tee shot. His two birdies on the final nine came at the par-5 11th, where he had a tap-in birdie after being pin-high in two shots, and on the final hole.
“I didn’t make anything in the second round until the putt on 18,” Woodland said. “Then I made two in a row.”
And now he’s headed to Bethpage, along with two Florida Gators.