Pebble: Rickie, Rocco, Rose out
WESTERVILLE, Ohio – It takes a lot to leave Rocco Mediate speechless.
But losing out in a playoff to get into the U.S. Open does the trick.
“Don’t even bother guys,” Mediate said. “For the first time ever I’m not going to say anything.”
Hoping for a repeat of his magical 2008 U.S. Open when he also came through this Columbus, Ohio, qualifier, Mediate fell short in a heartbreaking six-way playoff. With five spots available, Mediate bogeyed the third extra hole, the 397-yard, par-4 10th at the Lakes Golf & Country Club, turned and walked into a fast-falling, cool sunset.
As Mediate played that playoff hole alongside Harrison Frazar and John Mallinger, the three other competitors stood on a hill at the 18th hole, anticipating a fourth extra hole.
When he heard his phone vibrate, Davis Love III picked up and saw that it was his wife.
“What are you doing?” Robin Love asked.
“Standing on the 18th tee watching these guys finish,” Love said.
“No you’re not,” she said.
“I couldn’t make these things up,” Davis said.
Love, Derek Lamely, and former University of Indiana standout Alex Martin watched Mediate make bogey and thus were free to punch their tickets to Pebble Beach.
For Love, who birdied his 36th hole to get into the playoff, it was especially satisfying since he missed last year for the first time since 1990.
“Plus, it’s Pebble,” Love said. “I just didn’t want to miss Pebble.”
Sadly, some quality players will, because while the six-way playoff dominated news at the end of the day at the Columbus qualifier, what created the greatest buzz on a cool, sunny day was the failures of those who had played so brilliantly over the weekend at the Memorial Tournament, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler.
Hard to believe, but one day after cashing in to the tune $1,080,000 with his maiden PGA Tour win, Rose shot just 4 under for 36 holes when it took 7 under to get into a playoff. Even further down the list was Fowler, who went for 1 under, but conceded he was running on empty after nearly going wire-to-wire at the Memorial.
“I just couldn’t get anything going,” Fowler said after shooting 70 at Brookside and 73 at the Lakes. “I was exhausted, but I hit it well; I just didn’t putt very well.”
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When Tom Lehman bogeyed the first hole at Brookside to fall to 2 under, his caddie issued a challenge.
“Make eight birdies the rest of the way,” Andy Martinez said.
Obviously, Lehman is a good listener, because he made seven to shoot 66 and breeze through, tied for fourth at 9 under.
“What a courageous effort,” Martinez said, referring to a bum right knee that kept giving Lehman problems. “Really, really clutch.”
Still, Lehman put his good feelings aside to shake his head at the number of qualify players who fell short. He spent several minutes airing his disappointment that only 15 spots were available at a site that was jam-packed with PGA Tour players.
That sentiment was shared at the other side of the courtyard where the scoreboard was being kept, for there sat a solemn Kevin Sutherland. Having shot 68-70 to finish at 6 under, one stroke too high, the PGA Tour veteran shook his head.
“There are a lot of tournaments on the PGA Tour that would love to have a field this good,” Sutherland said.
He was referring to names like Fowler, who earlier in the day had jumped to 32nd in the world rankings, and Rose, who is now 33rd. D.A. Points and Tom Pernice Jr., were among those to fall short at 6 under, Jonathan Byrd and Bryce Molder were out at 5 under, while Bubba Watson and Kevin Streelman came in at 4 under.
Like Lehman, Ben Curtis celebrated his success (69-66, T-4) by questioning the sparcity of spots (there were only 15) that left Rose on the outside.
“How do you not get the (33rd) ranked player in? How is he not going to play in the freakin’ U.S. Open?” Curtis said. “It just blows my mind.”
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As for those who advanced, no surprise to find the name Bo Van Pelt. He’s been a top-10 machine of late, so shooting 69-66 to breeze through seemed like a ho-hummer, eh?
“Just doing it consistently these days,” Van Pelt said. “My short game has improved so much since working with Phil Rogers.”
Van Pelt has made it through 36-hole qualifiers for both the British Open and U.S. Open, so he must have a secret recipe. He laughed. “I only made one bogey in 72 holes. That helps.”
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With so much else going on, it was hard to give much attention to the medalist, but Eric Axley shooting 64-63 to finish 17 under and win medalist honors by seven shots was a stunner. So, too, was the advancement by unheralded Aussie Terry Pilkadaris, who plays mostly in Asia.
Another Aussie, Aaron Baddeley, played steadily, shot 69-67, and will return to Pebble Beach where 10 years ago he made his U.S. Open debut. He was given an exemption that year, an amateur who had won back-to-back Australian Opens and what he remembers is the privilege of playing alongside a player he admired.
Fellow Aussie Greg Norman?
“Nick Price,” said Baddeley. “I could tell you every shot he made in the ’94 PGA Championship.”
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Brett Waldman did what he normally does – carry a golf bag for a guy named Villegas. Only in this case it was Manuel, Camilo’s brother.
Manuel, attempting to join his brother in the field at the U.S. Open, shot even-par 72 at Brookside, so Waldman laughed that “I got fired.”
Truth is, Camilo wanted to do the honors for the afternoon at the Lakes. Manuel fared better, a 2-under 70, but he failed to advance.
“Both caddies did a good job,” said Manuel, who has a sponsor’s exemption into this week’s PGA Tour stop in Memphis.
Camilo wasn’t so sure about that.
“It’s easier to play than caddie,” he said.
• • •
A handful of Champions Tour players gave it a shot, with only Lehman making it through.
Coming in from Des Moines where they had played in the Principal Charity Classic, John Cook, Jay Haas, Bobby Clampett and Jeff Sluman all came up short.
“Mostly, I did it for Pebble,” Cook said. “If not for Pebble, I probably wouldn’t have tried.”
Sluman said similarly, though the day gave him a chance to play alongside Fowler. Yes, the former PGA Championship winner was impressed.
“We don’t have to worry about Rickie,” Sluman said. “He’ll play in plenty of U.S. Opens and probably might win a few.”