Notes: Quinn makes cut; Kuchar's non-penalty

Fran Quinn shot a 4-over 74 on Friday, but is at 2 over for the tournament and will be playing the weekend at the U.S. Open.
Fran Quinn shot a 4-over 74 on Friday, but is at 2 over for the tournament and will be playing the weekend at the U.S. Open. ( Getty Images )

Friday, June 13, 2014

PINEHURST, N.C. – He finished his spirited opening round on the threshold of Thursday-night dusk. He began his second round in Friday-morning warmth.

That stretch of golf will be remembered fondly by Fran Quinn, closing Round 1 at 2-under 68, then getting to 4 under early Friday to stand closest to runaway leader Martin Kaymer. The fact that Quinn came back to the pack by going 6 over for his final 15 holes in Round 2 diminishes his excitement, but doesn’t bury it.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said, when asked how it felt to be a 49-year-old qualifier who made the cut. Rounds of 68-74 have him at 2-over 142 and 12 off the lead, but he’s got a firm grasp on perspective. “Overall, I’m very pleased. It’s one good round from being really in the mix.”

A definitive journeyman, Quinn is playing in his fourth U.S. Open, the first having come way back in 1992 at Pebble Beach. He was given a spot in the next-to-last pairing Thursday night and as he maintained his score under par, it was easy to ask yourself, "Who is this guy, Fran Quinn?"

He last played on the PGA Tour full-time in 1992, his focus mostly on the Tour, but the passion burns within. “I play because I love the game,” he said. “I love competing.”

When he birdied the par-4 third to get to 4 under, Quinn was the closest pursuer to Kaymer, but then came a rough stretch – bogeys at four and five, then a double at the seventh when his putt failed to climb a false front and rolled back off the green. “How could you be that stupid?” Quinn said, when asked what he said to himself walking off after a double-bogey.

• • •

AFTER FURTHER REVIEW: Matt Kuchar converted two short putts on the same hole, the par-3 sixth, both under the watchful eye of a rules official.

His 15-foot putt for par had come up 2 feet short and when Kuchar went to tap it in, it rolled slightly. “It was on an incline, on the down grain,” Kuchar said.

He stepped back, looked at playing competitor Lee Westwood, then called in the walking rules official. Kuchar was sure he hadn’t addressed the ball; “Lee said he was 100 percent certain I hadn’t,” but wanted to be sure.

The official asked Kuchar to putt the ball from where it ended up, which was for bogey, then move it back and putt it in under a one-stroke penalty, which would have meant double-bogey.

After his round, Kuchar and rules officials watched it on a TV replay and agreed that he had not addressed the ball so he was OK to play it from where it rolled.

“It was the right call,” Kuchar said after signing for level-par 70. At 1-under 139 he is joint 10th, nine behind.

• • •

PLEASANT SURPRISE: New to both the U.S. Open and Pinehurst No. 2, Englishman Danny Willett didn’t know what to expect.

With a 71—141 to sit at 1 over, Willett confirmed to himself what he has felt for a while. “The golf game is in a good place,” he said. “Everything seems to be in a really nice place with most things, and if you've got a good golf game, it should be able to travel. That's what the best players in the world do.”

Willett, 26, has won only once on the European Tour, the 2012 BMW International Open. His season has been solid, not missing a cut playing in the Middle East, South Africa, Malaysia, China and Europe.

Ranked 134th in the world, Willett will play on the weekend in his third consecutive major, having made the cut in the Open Championship and PGA Championship last year.

“I see myself as a top-50 player, at least, and it's just obviously a few injuries here and there have held us back a little bit.”

• • •

MASSIVE FAVORITE: Martin Kaymer started the week at 40-1 to win his first U.S. Open and second major. After consecutive 65s, the German is six strokes ahead of his nearest pursuer, Brendon Todd, and thus have the odds shifted.

He’s a whopping 4-7 favorite.

The next closest players include Todd, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Brandt Snedeker, all at 20-1. Defending champ Justin Rose shot a second-round 69 to fall 11 strokes back and is 100-1, while Phil Mickelson (13 back) is just a field bet at 8-1.

• • •

HOW LOW IS IT? At 130, Martin Kaymer established a 36-hole scoring record for a major championship. The previous best at a U.S. Open was Rory McIlroy’s 131 in 2011. To show just how dialed in Kaymer is, consider that in six previous U.S. Opens, he had never shot better than 144 for 36 holes.

So far as his other 19 majors – seven Masters, six Opens, six PGAs – Kaymer had been better than 140 twice at the Open (137 in 2011, 139 in 2009) and once at the PGA Championship (136 last year at Oak Hill when he was 4 under, but five off the lead).

Kaymer’s history with a 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour is just one time, last month at The Players Championship. He protected that one, of course.

In the major championship he won, the 2010 PGA, he trailed by five after 18 holes, then by four after the second and third rounds.

• • •

MORE LIKE IT: For just the third time in 38 U.S. Open rounds, Adam Scott broke par – and the 3-under 67 couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Needed a good one today. I’m very happy with the score.”

Though he actually fell further behind – he started the day eight behind Martin Kaymer and concluded it 10 off the pace – the world’s No. 1 felt as if he had played as he’s capable of. The day before, when he shot 73, he failed to capitalize on his good shots or salvage par after bad ones.

Thus, the massive deficit. Still, Scott is keeping his focus. His 67, after all, was the second-best score of the morning, eclipsed only by Kaymer’s 65.

“Over the next 27 holes you would like to narrow the gap to less than half of what it is,” he said. “Anything could happen over nine holes at a U.S. Open.”

• • •

THAT “DOWN UNDER” FEEL: Brendon de Jonge backed up his opening 68 with a 70 and is thrilled to be halfway home at 2 under. His comfort level at Pinehurst No. 2 is connected to his trip to Australia late last year to play in the Australia Open and World Cup. “I played a couple weeks down at Royal Melbourne and loved the way that looked. I think (Pinehurst No. 2) has a similar sort of vibe to it. I think it’s absolutely great.”

• • •

BROTHERLY ADVICE? Actually, we think Ai Miyazato will skip this formality. After all, her brother, Kiyoshi Miyazato, wouldn’t have much to say to her. In 36 holes he made a triple, three doubles, and 13 pars, rounds of 81-81 leaving him miles outside the cut. He did not make a birdie, so clearly better is hoped for when Ai tees it up next week in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2.