A course record was shattered at Woodmont Country Club on Monday, as Samuel Ryder fired a sizzling 10-under-par 62 to create significant separation between him and the field in the morning round of a 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier, conducted on the club's North Course.
Ryder, of Longwood, Fla., qualified for his first U.S. Open after posting a 1-under 71 during the afternoon round to earn medalist honors in the field of 50 vying for three spots next week at Erin Hills.
Joining Ryder at Erin Hills will be Kyle Thompson, who will play in his second U.S. Open after shooting rounds of 68-69—137, and Ben Kohles, who finished a stroke behind Thompson at 6-under 138.
Monday’s sectional at Woodmont served as Ryder’s introduction to the course. Ryder played in the Rex Hospital Open Sunday and made the four-hour drive from Raleigh, N.C., to Rockville. So what possibly could have possessed the 27-year-old to set a course record?
“Honestly, I was just learning as I went,” said Ryder, a Web.com Tour player. “I just kind of figured it out, the putter got hot, and it was fun.”
If only golf was always this fun.
Ryder three-putted his second hole of the morning for a bogey, before shooting 10 under over his final 16.
“I was adjusting as I went and my speed was really good, everything was just going in with perfect weight,” Ryder said. “I think it just translated to the rest of my game.”
Playing on a new course, at a certain point Ryder understood that he just had to let things go.
“When it comes down to it, you’ve just got to guess, and a course like this is sort of right in front of you, so that made it easier,” Ryder said.
Thompson had a comfort level with Woodmont that helped him punch his ticket to Erin Hills.
“I really enjoy this golf course and it just played so fair,” said Thompson, 38, of Greenville, S.C.
Thompson won on the Web.com Tour in the Bahamas earlier this year, and said he has other career-altering memories from a 2011 U.S. Open sectional qualifier at Woodmont.
Playing with local standout Fred Funk that Monday, Thompson remembers missing a par putt on the last hole to miss out on a 3-for-1 playoff. At the time, he slammed his trunk in frustration, but over the next three weeks, his top-three finishes on the Web.com Tour “solidified my entire career and got me my PGA Tour card back,” Thompson said. “So you never know how everything is going to go.”
Kohles, of Sea Island, Ga., got through to his first U.S. Open, and stayed at 2016 qualifier Denny McCarthy’s house in Rockville after the drive from Raleigh on Sunday. McCarthy, who made it to the U.S. Open through a playoff at Woodmont last year, was teammates with Kohles at the University of Virginia and lent his golf bag to Kohles. McCarthy had gotten through twice before with that bag and now Kohles punched his ticket as well.
“I told him, man your Virginia bag is sweet, we never got a white one when we were there, and (Denny) got one of course after I left and graduated,” Kohles said. “I saw that bag in his garage last night and said ‘this is the bag you used to get through two qualifiers? I might as well take it and make it three for three.”
Going into the afternoon round, Ryder’s 62 made it seem like there were only two spots realistically left. The 27-year-old Kohles shot out of the pack of eight players between 1 and 3 under in the first round, which included PGA Tour veterans Jason Gore and Steven Wheatcroft. Kohles delivered a clutch 4-under 68 in the second 18 to nab that third spot at 6 under.
“I just played solid and kept the ball in the fairway for the most part, that helps around here,” Kohles said.
While Kohles is going to play in his first U.S. Open, he is no stranger to Erin Hills, having competed in the 2011 U.S. Amateur on the Wisconsin course.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Kohles said, smiling. “I’ve obviously watched the U.S. Open on TV since I’ve been a golf fan, since I was 8 years old, so it will be really cool to be out there with all the big crowds.”
T.J. Howe and Lanto Griffin earned the first and second alternate spots, respectively, via a playoff with Vince Covello.
Garrett Johnston is a freelance sportswriter and video producer.