Cut Not Kind to Recent Major Champions
Furyk, McDowell among five U.S. Open champions who failed to qualify for final 36 holes
By Dave Shedloski
ARDMORE, Pa. – Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk, two recent U.S. Open champions who contended down the stretch in the 2012 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, figured to be in the mix again this year at the mighty midget of championship layouts, Merion Golf Club.
Instead, the two were perhaps among the most surprising contestants dismissed after two rounds of the 113th U.S. Open at Merion’s East Course.
McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, expressed confidence earlier in the week. “I’m feeling as good physically and mentally as I ever have in my career.” Then he went out and suffered seven double bogeys – as many as he had made all year on the PGA Tour – in rounds of 77-76–153.
“I'm temporarily dejected,” said McDowell, of Northern Ireland. “This game is not about your bad weeks, it's not about – of course it's about the major championships, and you're trying to prepare yourself as well as you can coming into weeks like this. I struggled the last couple days, but that's golf, and that's the U.S. Open.”
Furyk, who began the final round at Olympic in the lead and ended up tied for fourth, crashed to 77-79–156. Furyk, who grew up in nearby Lancaster, Pa., and was followed by dozens of family and friends throughout his two rounds, was almost in shock at how poorly he played.
“I thought myself around the golf course poorly, I putted poorly, I drove the ball poorly, I just – just did things you can't do at a U.S. Open,” said Furyk, who won the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields outside Chicago.
Top finishers from last year at Olympic fared poorly in general. Champion Webb Simpson managed to hang on after a 75 to make the cut at 146. But Michael Thompson, who tied for second with McDowell, was dealt a tough blow, shooting a 78 Friday afternoon to miss by a stroke at 149.
The cut fell at 8-over 148 with 73 of the 156 contestants qualifying for the final 36 holes. That’s one stroke higher than the cut in the 1981 edition at Merion and identical to the cut in the ’71 championship here.
So much for technology and fitness.
More notable than who made the cut was who missed it. Major champions were dismissed en masse.
Start with recent U.S. Open champions.
Angel Cabrera, the 2007 champion at Oakmont, near Pittsburgh, didn’t find the eastern end of the state nearly as friendly, shooting a second-round 81 to end up at 155. Lucas Glover, who won in 2009, went one higher, carding 82-156. Michael Campbell of New Zealand, who triumphed in 2005 at Pinehurst No. 2, site of next year’s U.S. Open, suffered three doubles and a triple bogey in a second-round 78 that left him at 154.
Other casualties among the major winners: Zach Johnson (151), David Toms (152), Darren Clarke (155), Jose Maria Olazabal (156) and Y.E. Yang (152).
Not all the major winners crumbled at the end, though. One notable exception was 2003 Masters winner Mike Weir, who has struggled in recent years with injuries. He had to par his last hole, the tough 18th, to make the cut, and he came through with 76-148.
While most players lost ground coming home, Nicholas Thompson birdied his final hole, the par-4 10th, to sneak in on the number.
Four amateurs made the cut, the most since 2004, and two of the quartet stand among the top 20 heading into the second half of the championship.
Leading the way is Korean-born Michael Kim, who competes for the University of California-Berkeley golf team. An impressive second-round 70 left him at 3-over 143, tied for 13th place with a group that includes No. 1 Tiger Woods and No. 2 Rory McIlroy.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Kim, 19, playing in his first U.S. Open after winning four collegiate tournaments in 2012-13. “I’ve just been really steady, hitting a decent amount of fairways and greens. I've been putting pretty well. These greens are really tricky. And I think putting is one of my strengths and it's been working so far.”
Though he stumbled to the finish line after lingering among the top 10, Cheng-Tsung Pan, 21, finished at 4-over 144 after a pair of 72s. Pan, a native of Chinese Taipei who completed an All-American season at the University of Washington, played his final five holes Saturday morning in four over par.
Kevin Phelan, 22, a dual citizen of Ireland and the U.S., made the cut in his second U.S. Open appearance with rounds of 71-77-148. Michael Weaver, 22, a teammate of Kim’s at Cal-Berkeley and the 2012 U.S. Amateur runner-up, shot a pair of 74s for 148, also just inside the line.
Jordan Spieth, who finished as the low amateur at The Olympic Club but since has turned pro, found himself on the outside this time after 77-76-153.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on usopen.com.