Charley Hoffman Bounces Back to Medal at Columbus
By Dave Shedloski
COLUMBUS, Ohio – One day after crashing in the final round of the Memorial Tournament at nearby Muirfield Village Golf Club, Charley Hoffman, of San Diego, earned medalist honors Monday at the U.S. Open sectional qualifier in suburban Columbus, Ohio.
But it was fellow PGA Tour professional Josh Teater who turned heads at The Lakes Golf & Country Club by successfully navigating his second 36-hole qualifier in a 15-day span. Thanks to an opening 9-under-par 63 that included a remarkable stretch of eight straight birdies, Teater finished tied for second to earn one of the 15 berths for next week’s national championship at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.
On May 20, Teater was the medalist at the International Final Qualifier-America for the British Open at Muirfield in East Lothian, Scotland, topping a field of 78 players at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas.
He has never played in a major championship. Now, he’s in the field for the next two, with venerable Merion and the 113th U.S. Open first up on his calendar.
“I didn’t even want to think about it. If you think that way then crazy things can happen. I tried to act like I was just out playing golf with my friends,” said Teater, 34, of Lexington, Ky. “It’s just simple golf – hitting greens and making putts.”
He hit it close to the hole a lot, too. Five of the birdies in his opening 63 were from inside 10 feet, while he earned two others via two-putts on par 5s after reaching those greens in two.
A field of 120 players competed for 15 U.S. Open berths and two alternate spots, and unlike last year, when Youngstown, Ohio, club pro Dennis Miller advanced, there were no Cinderella stories. At a qualifier traditionally populated by dozens of PGA Tour players, the top 19 finishers were all Tour members of some standing.
Tying for second with Teater at 10-under 134 were Sweden’s Robert Karlsson and Americans David Hearn and Nicholas Thompson.
David Lingmerth of Sweden fired an afternoon 65 at the more difficult Brookside Golf & Country Club and tied for sixth with Brendan Steele and veteran Brandt Jobe at 9-under 135.
Eleven men completed 36 holes in 8 under and fell into a playoff for seven spots. Doug LaBelle, Aaron Baddeley, Justin Hicks and Ted Potter Jr. birdied the first playoff hole, while Rory Sabbatini and Sang-Moon Bae birdied the second. Last year, Hicks was the first alternate out of Columbus and got in the championship proper at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Tour rookie Luke Guthrie earned the last spot with an 18-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole. Two years ago, as an amateur in Springfield, Ohio, Guthrie lost in a playoff.
“I don’t even know what to say. I’m just excited to be going to the U.S. Open,” said Guthrie, 23, of Champaign, Ill. Like Teater, Guthrei advanced through the British Open qualifier – via a playoff, no less.
Mike Weir of Canada, the 2003 Masters champion, birdied the fourth extra hole to earn first alternate, while a par made Ohioan Jason Kokrak the second alternate. Weir has not played in the U.S. Open since finishing tied for 80th in the 2010 championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Having played six of the last seven weeks on Tour, Hoffman, 36, had contemplated withdrawing from the qualifier and returning to California. But after five top-20 finishes in seven starts, a final-round 81 at the Memorial Tournament clinched his decision.
“That bad round [at Memorial] got me motivated, and Sunday night I decided I didn't want to let that linger,” said Hoffman, who shot 65 at The Lakes and 68 at Brookside to earn his third U.S. Open berth. “I had been playing too well to not try and qualify because I feel like I am playing well enough to win the U.S. Open. It's really satisfying to come back the way I did.”
Sabbatini, who qualified for his 11th U.S. Open, practically sleepwalked his way through the qualifier. His five-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole secured his trip to Merion and ended a long day that began after fewer than four hours of sleep. He had flown into Columbus on Sunday afternoon, but the airline lost his golf clubs, which didn’t arrive until 12:15 a.m.
“I’m ready to fall over, but I’m happy,” he said. “Now, I have to figure out how to get to Merion.”
After a long day of golf, that’s the easy part.