2020 U.S. Open: Exemptions
Bent Tree Country Club & Northwood Club
Dallas, Texas • qualifying: May 20, 2019
For the first time in many years, a U.S. Open sectional qualifier in the United States won’t be conducted on the traditional Monday a week prior to the championship proper. The Dallas, Texas, sectional is set to be held on May 20, a day after the conclusion of the PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. Bent Tree Country Club and The Northwood Club will be the two venues used for the 36-hole event that ihas attracted six USGA champions, including 2007 U.S. Open winner Angel Cabrera.
Northwood Club, site of the 1952 U.S. Open, was originally designed by William Diddel and opened for play in 1946. The course was redesigned in 1990 by the architectural team of Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf. In 2015, Northwood hired golf architect Tripp Davis, a top amateur golfer in his own right, to oversee an extensive renovation of the course. Davis left the original routing largely untouched, but rebuilt and repositioned tees, greens and bunkers to be more strategically relevant for today’s game.
Julius Boros claimed the first of his two U.S. Opens in 1952. His 1-over-par 281 total prevented Ben Hogan from winning his third consecutive Open title in his native Texas. Hogan, in fact, led that championship after 36 holes, but fell back to finish in third place. In 2015, the Texas Golf Hall of Fame added Northwood to the Texas Registry of Historic Courses.
Bent Tree Country Club was founded in 1972 by Robert S. Folsom on what was then 200 acres of cotton fields and pasture land. Folsom, who would go on to serve as mayor of Dallas from 1976-81, hired golf course architect Desmond Muirhead to design the course. In 2002, the original Muirhead layout was skillfully restored and enhanced by Keith Foster. The result is a par-71 course highlighted by water features testing players on 14 of the 18 holes, and 62 strategically placed bunkers that define the driving zones and green complexes.
Bent Tree annually hosts an assortment of member tournaments for men, women, couples and juniors. In the 1980s, the venue hosted a number of professional events, including the LPGA Mary Kay Classic and the PGA Tour Champions’ Reunion Pro-Am and Bank One Championship.
Besides Cabrera, the other USGA champions in the field are past U.S. Junior Amateur winners Brian Harman, Noah Goodwin and Scottie Scheffler, Shuai Ming (Ben) Wong, who won the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball with partner Frankie Capan, and 2003 U.S. Amateur champion Nicholas Flanagan.
Also in the field is Fox Sports golf announcer Shane Bacon, 2019 Latin America Amateur champion Alvaro Ortiz -- along with his older brother Carlos -- and 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir.
The qualifier is being conducted for the USGA by the Texas Golf Association.
Brendon Todd is headed back to Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links, a place he adores and has enjoyed previous success. Todd, 33, of Watkinsville, Ga., owns a pair of top-10 finishes in the PGA Tour’s AT&T National Pro-Am, which is held at Pebble Beach as well as two other venues on the Monterey Peninsula.
Todd, a former University of Georgia All-America honoree, shot 10-under-par 131 at The Northwood Club and Bent Tree Country Club in Dallas, Texas, on Monday to share medalist honors with Nick Taylor in the first of 12 U.S. Open sectional qualifiers. Eleven players advanced from a strong field of 102 players that included several PGA Tour and Web.com Tour competitors.
The 36-hole sectional qualifier in Japan is scheduled for May 27, while the remaining 10 qualifiers are set for June 3 – eight in the United States, one in England and another in Canada.
“I’m pumped,” said Todd, who owns one PGA Tour and three Web.com Tour victories since turning professional in 2007. “This was on my list for about a year to try and qualify for Pebble. It’s one of my favorite courses in the world. I just can’t wait to get out there and play Pebble in a U.S. Open setup. I think it will set up good for me. I think it will be firm [and] I drive it straight. It’s a course-management golf course. You’ve got to put it in the fairway, keep it under the hole and score well.”
Todd definitely scored well, even in breezy conditions. He birdied five of his first eight holes at The Northwood Club, a venue that hosted the 1952 U.S. Open won by Julius Boros, en route to a 5-under 65. He was 6 under through 14 holes in his afternoon round at Bent Tree Country Club before hitting his tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 15th. He rebounded on the par-5 16th, hitting a hybrid to 15 feet to set up an eagle. Two closing pars gave Todd a 5-under 66.
The championship at Pebble Beach will be Todd’s third U.S. Open start, and his first was quite memorable. He opened the 2014 championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2 with rounds of 69-67. That put him in second place through 36 holes, six strokes behind front-runner and eventual winner Martin Kaymer. A third-round 79, however, derailed his momentum, and ultimately finished in a tie for 17th. He missed the cut the following year at Chambers Bay.
“For me, it’s just a matter of getting back into the mode of playing major-championship golf,” said Todd. “Pebble is one of the most iconic courses in America, so I don’t think there is a better place to play a major.”
Taylor, 31, of Canada, also has good U.S. Open memories, going back to when he was an amateur in 2009 at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course, site of last week’s PGA Championship. The then-University of Washington All-American fired a second-round 65, the lowest score by an amateur in U.S. Open history. It propelled him to a tie for 36th and low-amateur honors.
After shooting a 66 at The Northwood Club and a 65 at Bent Tree, Taylor, 31, is headed back to his first U.S. Open in a decade, and his first major since the 2015 PGA Championship, where he finished tied for 68th.
Another former low amateur, Scottie Scheffler, 22, of Dallas, will be making his first U.S. Open start as a professional. The 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and member of the victorious 2017 USA Walker Cup Team shot 5-under 136 on Monday to finish the qualifier tied for fifth. He graduated from the University of Texas last fall and is currently No. 3 on the 2019 Web.com Tour money list.
“I’m excited to go play,” said Scheffler. “I’ve never played Pebble before, so I’ll have to get used to the course out there. It should be fun. I feel like I play better on harder courses. I kind of like the challenge. I don’t think I necessarily play bad on easier courses. But when the conditions get tougher, it suits me better.”
Other notable qualifiers included 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir and former University of North Texas standout Carlos Ortiz, of Mexico, whose younger brother Alvaro, won this year’s Latin America Amateur Championship to earn an invitation to the Masters.
Former University of Illinois standout Charles Danielson, of Osceola, Wis., and amateur Austin Eckroat, of Edmond, Okla., an Oklahoma State University standout who was the medalist in the 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur, advanced in a 3-for-2 playoff to earnthe last two spots. Cody Gribble, of Dallas, Texas, was the first alternate, but was added to the field on June 3 when an additional spot was allocated to the Dallas sectional.
“I’ve probably played [Pebble Beach] eight times,” said Eckroat. “The views are incredible, but you are also playing a fantastic golf course at the same time. We play a college tournament there every year and I played the U.S. Amateur there last year.”
Notables who failed to qualify included Fox Sports golf broadcaster Shane Bacon, 2003 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and 2017 U.S. Open co-runner-up Brian Harman, 2003 U.S. Amateur champion Nicholas Flanagan, PGA Tour winner Andrew Landry and 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Noah Goodwin.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com. Mark Button of the Texas Golf Association contributed to this report.