Suber, Last Man In, Sticking Around for Weekend

By Ron Driscoll, USGA

| Jun 14, 2024 | Village of Pinehurst, N.C.

Suber, Last Man In, Sticking Around for Weekend

Jackson Suber could have been playing in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Kansas Wichita Open this weekend, rather than competing in his first major championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club.

Suber had been on-site at Pinehurst since Sunday, as qualifying alternates are allowed to do, but his spot in the field for the 124th U.S. Open wasn’t assured until 2021 champion Jon Rahm withdrew late Tuesday afternoon because of a foot infection. Everything that has happened since then can be chalked up to someone making the most of a precious, unexpected opportunity.

“It’s been a crazy couple of weeks,” said Suber after he shot a 1-under-par 69 in Round 1 on Thursday, playing with a pair of major champions, Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama. Rahm had been scheduled as the third member of the marquee group before he withdrew. “I heard that I had a chance to get in, to be last man in the field. It’s just been a roller coaster.”

Suber, 24, of Tampa, Fla., a graduate of the University of Mississippi, followed up that dream under-par debut with a gritty round of 3-over 73 on Friday to easily make it inside the 36-hole cutline at 2-over 142.

“I had a rough start,” said Suber, who opened double bogey-bogey on Nos. 10 and 11 in Round 2. “I was 3 over even though I hit two good drives. I didn’t get bad breaks, just had little hiccups, and after that had some patience and felt good through the rest of the day.”

Suber settled down to record three birdies, three bogeys and 10 pars the rest of the round to keep himself safely inside the cutline. Suber, who has competed the past two seasons on the Korn Ferry Tour, was in the final qualifier on June 3 at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., where he missed a 6-foot putt on his final hole that would have gotten him into the 156-player field. That miss put him into a playoff for the first- and second-alternate spots, and he knocked in an estimated 50-foot birdie putt, then secured his first-alternate slot when one of his opponents missed from 5 feet. That’s when the waiting game truly began.

“Going into the qualifier, I had missed four cuts in a row, and I felt like I was playing good golf but things just weren’t happening,” said Suber, who had given himself until Tuesday night to wait out the opportunity to compete at Pinehurst before flying to Wichita, since he needed to play there to continue earning valuable points on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Suber turned professional in 2022 after an Ole Miss career that included two Southeastern Conference first-team honors and three Southeast Regional first-team awards. He finished 37th on the Korn Ferry Tour points list in 2023, and currently stands 44th this year, with six combined top-10 finishes and 21 cuts made in 33 starts over two seasons. The top 30 point leaders earn PGA Tour cards for the 2025 season.

On Thursday morning, Suber introduced himself to three-time major champion Spieth and 2021 Masters champion Matsuyama, then bested each of them by three strokes (69-72).

“It’s pretty cool,” said Suber. “When the tee times came out, I wanted to see who Rahm was playing with, because there’s a good chance that’s my group if I have one. After Tiger, Jordan probably is the most popular golfer in the world, and Hideki is a global superstar. It was really cool to play with them and be up close with them and talk to them. It was just a great opportunity. There wasn’t a ton of chatter but there were a couple conversations here and there. They’re good people.”

And Suber has proven to himself and others that he is a good player in his own right, even if there was some initial anxiety.

“I didn’t sleep very well after getting the news on Tuesday,” said Suber. “But then I kind of calmed down, and after the first couple holes [Thursday], it felt like a normal golf tournament. I’m just trying to play as good as I can and not really thinking about where it puts me or anything external.”

It was admittedly a bit hard at times to avoid the external influences.

“To play at a place like Pinehurst at a U.S. Open – it’s incredible,” said Suber. “That’s the only way I can really put it. To come out of that tunnel and see all the people, all the way up and down the fairway, it’s just really cool. But I always believed I could do this. You never know if you’re actually going to do it, but I feel like I always knew it was in me.”

Welcome to U.S. Open weekend, Mr. Suber.

Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.