June 10, 2014
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Luke Donald has the short game to compete at Pinehurst No. 2 during the 2014 U.S. Open. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Luke Donald ... Now 36 years of age, the Englishman is probably past-prime as he continues to chase his first win in a major. While he remains one of the world's best on and around greens, overall consistency has retreated to the level prior to his world-beating 2011. His wife gave birth to their third child while he played the BMW PGA Championship in England three weeks ago. Given the logistical impossibility of traveling to Chicago in time for the birth, he didn't withdraw and instead shared third place. If he's going to contend at Pinehurst, his long irons will need to be as precise as ever since the course can stretch to 7,562 yards.
Pablo Larrazábal ... The three-time European Tour winner made news recently in Malaysia. While playing the par-5 fifth hole at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club in the second round of the Maybank Malaysian Open, the 31-year-old sought the safety of a pond to escape a hornet attack. In epic, swashbuckling fashion that would have impressed the late Seve Ballesteros, a fellow Spaniard, Larrazábal scrambled, literally, for birdie en route to a share of eighth place. He's making his debut in the U.S. Open.
Alex Cejka ... Golf Channel's Rich Lerner once likened the 43-year-old to actor Viggo Mortensen. Indeed, while Cejka, who was born in then-Czechoslovakia, is 12 years Mortensen's junior, and Mortensen has Danish bloodlines, they share steely gazes. At the age of nine, Cejka was a refugee from the Communism of his homeland. He landed in Germany where he was inspired by Bernhard Langer to devote his life to golf. Cejka, who survived the sectional qualifier in California to tee it up at Pinehurst, has Veteran Membership on the PGA TOUR, status he secured in 2012. This despite never ranking inside the top 100 in the FedExCup standings and competing on the circuit for only four years previous to this era.
W.C. Liang ... Medaled at the sectional qualifier in Japan to qualify for his first U.S. Open. The 35-year-old is the more recent of two Chinese winners on the European Tour (2007 Singapore Masters). He reached a personal-best 57th in the Official World Golf Ranking after sharing eighth place at the 2010 PGA Championship where in the third round he established the course record of 64 at Whistling Straits. Currently 164th in the OWGR, he's tops among his countrymen.
Niclas Fasth ... Once 18th in the Official World Golf Ranking, the 42-year-old has six victories on the European Tour but none since 2007. Now No. 776 in the OWGR, he gained entry via the sectional qualifier in England and makes his first start in this major since 2008. The Swede is the forgotten victim of Paul Azinger's hole-out from a greenside bunker during their singles match of the 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry in England, thus preventing Fasth from the glory of securing victory eventually attained by Paul McGinley in the immediately ensuing match with Jim Furyk.
Shiv Kapur ... A sectional qualifier in England, he's making his U.S. Open debut. Made noise early at last year's Open Championship at Muirfield when he birdied six of his first seven holes. He'd finish T73. The native of New Delhi, India turned 32 years of age in February. He played collegiately at Purdue University where he was an all-American. Has just one victory in 76 starts on the Asian Tour, but it paved the way for the Rookie of the Year Award in 2005.