U.S. Open Cut: Mahan’s Penalty Proves Doubly Painful

When marking his ball on the 18th green during the second round of the 2014 U.S. Open, Hunter Mahan realized he had mistakenly played his fellow competitor's ball from the fairway, resulting in a costly two-stroke penalty. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

When marking his ball on the 18th green during the second round of the 2014 U.S. Open, Hunter Mahan realized he had mistakenly played his fellow competitor's ball from the fairway, resulting in a costly two-stroke penalty. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

Friday, June 13, 2014

By Stuart Hall

VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – Each of the 89 players who missed the cut at the 114th U.S. Open on Friday has a story of personal disappointment to tell. In the case of Hunter Mahan, his story includes caddie John Wood.

“It was 100 percent on me,” said Wood of a two-stroke penalty that was assessed to Mahan for hitting fellow competitor Jamie Donaldson’s ball on their ninth hole in Friday’s second round at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2. As a result, Mahan finished with a second-round 72 and a 146 score for the championship, one stroke shy of the 5-over-par 145 cut line.  

On the 455-yard, par-4 18th hole, Wood was the first person in the group to reach the tee shot sitting in the left-center of the fairway. Wood noticed a slash, similar to one Mahan makes, across the ball’s number and assumed it was Mahan’s ball. Not until the players marked their balls on the green did Donaldson notice that he and Mahan played the other player’s ball from the fairway, a violation of Rule 15-3b (Wrong Ball-Stroke Play).

Mahan and Donaldson replayed their approach shots and both went on to record double-bogey 6. Both players were assessed a two-stroke penalty. Donaldson finished with an 81 and also missed the cut at 11-over 151.

“Off the tee, it looked like Hunter's [ball] was in the left-center and Jamie's was on the left edge,” Wood said. “And we got up there and they were switched and we didn't realize it. You are out here every day for 17 years, you know where the ball goes in the fairway. I can't grasp where the ball ended up. That was no excuse, it was my fault.”

Mahan described Wood’s mistake as a fluke.

“I've played a lot of rounds of golf now and it's happened maybe one time before,” he said. “Off the tee, it looked like that's where my ball should have been, and I couldn't explain to you how it ended up where it did. Just got to pay more attention.”

Mahan’s explanation did little to lessen Wood’s guilt, especially since it ended up costing Mahan, the 1999 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and 2002 U.S. Amateur runner-up, a chance of playing on the weekend.

“Yeah, that's the worst of it,” Wood said. “And he played so good today. The two-shot penalty probably cost him three, because he had a really great look on the [initial] shot he hit in there for birdie.”

Painful missed-cut stories also belonged to Matt Dobyns, a 36-year-old head golf professional at Fresh Meadow County Club in Lake Success, N.Y., and amateur Brian Campbell, 21, of Irvine, Calif.

Dobyns made successive birdies on his 16th and 17th holes to sit on the cut line, but made bogey on the 169-yard, par-3 ninth, his final hole, to shoot 72 and finish at 6-over 146. Campbell also bogeyed his final hole, the ninth, to shoot 70 and miss the cut by a stroke.

There will be no Grand Slam winner in 2014 as reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson missed the cut at 146, despite a second-round 70.

“I thought maybe 4 or 5 [over] might have a chance, so I knew I had to shoot a couple under,” said Watson, who birdied two of his first three holes and then saw his momentum derailed with three bogeys in a four-hole stretch to end his outward nine.

Other top players to miss the cut this week include Luke Donald (69 – 146), Miguel Angel Jimenez (74 – 146) and Lee Westwood (73 – 148).

Reigning U.S. Senior Open champion Kenny Perry, 53, was one of the afternoon’s feel-good cut stories. Perry made birdies on the 15th and 16th holes en route to a 69 and 3-over 143 score.

Another belonged to Matthew Fitzpatrick, 19, of England, who secured low-amateur honors by being the only one of 11 to make the cut. Fitzpatrick, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, shot a second-round 73 and sits at 4-over 144.

“Making the cut was first priority, really,” said Fitzpatrick. “Then just to push on from there is sort of the thing that I always say when I've played the professional events. So I made the cut and now I'm trying to move up the leader board.”

Notable amateurs who missed the cut are 2013 U.S. Amateur runner-up Oliver Goss (83 – 154), NCAA Individual champion Cameron Wilson (70 – 148) and 2007 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Cory Whitsett (69 – 146).  

While Martin Kaymer, at 10-under 130, has a six-stroke lead, there is no shortage of former U.S. Open champions who still hold hope. At the top is Rory McIlroy, the 2011 champion who is nine shots back of Kaymer, tied for 10th at 1 under after a 68.

“Honestly, if I have a couple more 68s, like today, I would take my chances,” McIlroy said. “Five-under total. I would sit in the clubhouse happily with that. So we'll see.”

Reigning champion Justin Rose (69 – 141), 2010 champion Graeme McDowell (74 – 142), 2003 champion Jim Furyk (70 – 143), 2012 champion Webb Simpson (72 – 143), and two-time champions Ernie Els (70 – 144) and Retief Goosen (71 – 144) are also in pursuit.

Other major champions who made the cut are Keegan Bradley (69 – 138), world No. 1 Adam Scott (67 – 140), Stewart Cink (72 – 144), Louis Oosthuizen (73 – 144), Justin Leonard (70 – 145) and Zach Johnson (74 – 145).

U.S. Amateur champions Ryan Moore (68 – 144), Phil Mickelson (73 – 143) and Justin Leonard (70 – 145) made it to the weekend. David Gossett, 35, the 1999 champion who was making his first professional U.S. Open appearance after getting through local and sectional qualifying, missed the cut at 8-over 148. 

USGA champions Brandt Snedeker (2003 Amateur Public Links) and Kevin Tway (2005 Junior Amateur) also made the cut. Snedeker is tied for third (68 – 137). Tway is tied for 44th (72 – 144).

In the previous two U.S. Opens at Pinehurst, the cut came at 7 over (1999) and 8 over (2005).

Five of the 67 players who made the cut advanced through both local and sectional qualifying: Fran Quinn, Zac Blair, Cody Gribble, Nicholas Lindheim and Clayton Rask.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared on USGA websites.

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