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June 5 2012

1:58 PM

Davis Love III among qualifiers for U.S. Open

U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III will be making his 23rd start in the U.S. Open. UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio -- U.S. captain Davis Love III won't have to watch potential Ryder Cup players on television at the U.S. Open on television. He'll be playing alongside them. Love qualified for the U.S. Open for the third time in the last six years with a 2-under 139 at Scioto Country Club and Ohio State's Scarlet Course. Love, who finished tied for 16th at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance on Sunday, said it never crossed his mind to just bag it and go home rather than extend an already long week by playing 36 more holes. "No. Like last year, statistically I hit the ball well enough at the U.S. and the British to win," he said. "I definitely want to play." The 48-year-old Love has won 20 tournaments around the world, including the 1997 PGA Championship. He continues to play well, despite fighting off injuries, family obligations and an entire generation of younger players. He was among 16 players to qualify from the biggest of the 11 sectional qualifying sites across the country on Monday. One of them won't even get started until Tuesday. There was so much rain in Memphis, Tenn., that no one played more than a few minutes. USGA officials hope the course is dry enough to squeeze in 36 holes. The U.S. Open is June 14-17 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, and the 48-year-old Love will be making his 23rd appearance in his national open. Others who qualified from Scioto and Scarlet included medalist Charlie Wi, Kevin Streelman, D.A. Points, Rod Pampling and Steve Marino, who only last week returned from a four-month break to recovery from a bad shoulder. Love still hasn't forgotten the details from a year ago, however, when he three-putted the last hole he played at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial that cost him an automatic spot in the Open at Congressional. He had to go through qualifying to get in the field. "I seem to play well in the qualifying because I don't have a scoreboard to look at," he said. "You just play." Love has been in captain mode off and on since being selected for the matches this fall. He has been assessing potential players for the American side and has played with several. One of them, former British Open champ Ben Curtis, was in his threesome on Monday, although Curtis faded on his second 18 and failed to make the Open field. Perhaps the biggest cheer of the day came as darkness was falling at Scioto Country Club. On the fourth playoff hole to decide the last qualifiers, 42-year-old Youngstown, Ohio, teaching pro Dennis Miller's 20-foot putt from the fringe stopped on the lip of the cup. After the gallery of a few hundred groaned and Miller slowly started to walk to his ball, if fell -- touching off a huge celebration. Now Miller, a third alternate whose name did not even appear on the tee sheet, will be playing in his first U.S. Open -- and will likely have to get someone to fill in for him back at the course at Mill Creek Metroparks in Youngstown. "I can't believe what just happened," Miller said. "That was pretty incredible." Most of the rest of the field in the qualifier in suburban Columbus, Ohio, was filled with PGA TOUR pros who had just competed in the nearby Memorial. Among those who did not qualify were two of the contenders at Jack Nicklaus' tournament. Rory Sabbatini had the lead with four holes left on Sunday but was overtaken when Tiger Woods birdied three holes, including the 16th on an improbable 50-foot chip-in from thick grass behind the green. Spencer Levin led going into the final round at Muirfield Village and was still atop the leaderboard with nine holes left but fell apart on the back nine with three bogeys and a double-bogey in a 75. Sabbatini shot a 70 in his first 18 at Scarlet, but sagged to a 76 in the afternoon to fall short. Levin, who could have earned an automatic berth in the Open had he finished in the top two instead of tying for fourth at the Memorial, followed a 72 at Scioto with a 74 at Scarlet. Levin still has a chance to make the U.S. Open if he can crack the top 60 in the world after this week. Wi was the medalist by three strokes. He opened with a 7-under-par 65 at Scarlet and followed up with a 67 at Scioto. "This is only my second one. It's not easy to get in," said Wi, a California native whose only previous appearance was at Bethpage Black three years ago. "I always flew home Sunday night because if I missed (in the qualifier) I was already home. This worked out better. I took the strategy that if I missed I'd be home for two weeks. That's probably not a good strategy." But it worked out fine.
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