Sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open is kind of a big deal.
It could be argued that it could replace the focus of the Fantasy Insider because of how much it impacts the tournament contested in the interim. It’s also why the open qualifier for the Palmetto Championship at Congaree was staged on Sunday instead of Monday. (The same scheduling applied to the OQ for the old FedEx St. Jude Classic that often preceded the U.S. Open.)
As chronicled in, count ‘em, three updates to Qualifiers since the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide concluded on Sunday, 67 golfers have been added to the field of 156 at Torrey Pines next week. This includes 54 via nine sites of 36-hole sectional qualifying, two of which required a Tuesday finish. Ten punched tickets in the special three-event series on the European Tour. The other three gained entry via the top 60 of the latest Official World Golf Ranking.
The U.S. Open field includes Tiger Woods who continues to recovery from serious injuries suffered in his automobile crash in February. An exemption isn’t reserved for the winner at Congaree, but should Brian Gay or Hudson Swafford prevail, he would be eligible for the U.S. Open because it would constitute his second victory in a tournament awarding the full FedExCup points distribution since the originally scheduled U.S. Open in June of 2020.
If you’re curious about how the USGA assigns alternates, I explained that in this space for the AT&T Byron Nelson just four weeks ago. You’ll find a link to it in today’s update to Qualifiers above.
Meanwhile, and not insignificantly, Congaree marks the conclusion of Segment 3 in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf. My comment in Expert Picks (linked below) says it all in terms of my confidence despite the fact that rationing starts is not a concern.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the Palmetto Championship at Congaree (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Harris English; Tommy Fleetwood; Sungjae Im; Alex Noren; Brandt Snedeker; Josh Teater; Jhonattan Vegas
Driving: Harris English; Brice Garnett; Sungjae Im; Ben Martin; Henrik Norlander; Harold Varner III; Jhonattan Vegas
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Tommy Fleetwood (+2500) … He’s 32nd in the OWGR, so this is a default fade, but if we believe in permanent class, then he’ll rise to the occasion. At the same time, he’s only 121st in the FedExCup and not yet exempt for next season, so we could’ve been holding our breath many other times previously. In fact, we have, but this is the most vulnerable field of them all.
Sungjae Im (+1600) … Because he plays so often, it’s not a surprise that he’s lacing it up at Congaree, but it is mildly shocking that he’s connected on only one top 10 in his last 17 starts, and he’s missed five of his last eight cuts. This week’s test should be a slam dunk for the 23-year-old. When opportunity like this is presented, I always prefer younger, single touring professionals because of their tunnel vision and relatively distraction-free lifestyles.
Pat Perez (+8000) … It wasn’t all that long ago when we were coasting along with him. Today, as he’s poised to complete his age-45 season, he arrives at Congaree right on the bubble at 125th in the FedExCup and not yet fully exempt for 2021-22. One slot lower would be the alternative but he’s cashed in five straight starts and eight of his last nine to prove that grit doesn’t quit. Still a monster on the par 3s and his touch around the greens is as silky as his locks, so consider him confidently in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf and in DFS.
Doc Redman (+6600) … Picking up the pace just enough of late to raise some eyebrows. Good fit for a shot-shaper’s track like Congaree. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a Clemson product in these climes.
Henrik Norlander (+15000) … Absent form but Congaree gives him the chance to let his ball-striking go to work. Of the question marks you’re considering, his upside and potential firepower is among the most tantalizing.
Rafa Cabrera Bello
Odds sourced on Tuesday, June 8 at 5 a.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm.
Kevin Kisner (+4000) … The latest reminder to help explain why the OWGR is a two-year running formula. Since missing the cut at THE PLAYERS, he’s 2-for-8 with a T18 at the no-cut Match Play and a T40 at Colonial, but he ranks 50th in the world. Of those ranked inside the current 100, he’s 93rd when considering points earned only in 2021. Expand the focus to all golfers and he’s 177th in 2021.
Erik van Rooyen (+10000) … Among this week’s U.S. Open sectional qualifiers, but he missed four straight cuts prior to it. Perhaps he felt pressured to crack the top 60 in the OWGR to qualify automatically, but we don’t know enough about him yet to accept it or rule it out.
Peter Uihlein (+12500) … The fire is all but out after his recent torrid pace. He also offers nothing of statistical value on which to rest our hope.
Lucas Bjerregaard (+50000) … This placement won’t surprise you but it’s a reminder that he’s a PGA TOUR member, so he’s eligible for the Playoffs. Just 0-for-1 on the PGA TOUR this year, but if you’re keen on a chip-and-a-chair guy, the 29-year-old Dane is grinning at you.
Wilco Nienaber (+15000) … The 21-year-old from South Africa is making his PGA TOUR debut at Congaree. He’s currently atop the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit thanks to a recent victory at the Dimension Data Pro-Am that yielded an exemption into the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Two weeks later, the USGA extended an exemption into the U.S. Open, so we’ll be seeing a bit of him this summer. Unless he’s contending early this week, the first trickle of his talent you’ll consume will be about his muscle off the tee. Kids, these days…
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
J.B. Holmes … Called it quits during his second round at Muirfield Village last week with a sore back. He’s 210th in the FedExCup but he’s fully exempt through 2021-22 by virtue of his win at the 2019 Genesis Open and the eligibility adjustments that were ratified during the pandemic.
Brendon de Jonge … He lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, so it’s not much of a stretch to make his way to South Carolina’s Lowcountry. He hasn’t played since withdrawing from Corales before his second round in late March and 0-for-3 this season via Veteran Membership. Veteran gamers remember him as a machine who’s totaled 192 paydays in 313 starts, all during the FedExCup era, but he hasn’t connected for victory. Still only 40 years of age, he turned back the clock in his first round of the 3M Open shortly after his birthday last July, but he chased the 66 with an 80 to miss the cut.
Harrison Frazar … That’s right. No need to adjust your monitor or screen. The one-time PGA TOUR winner is back after a layoff of five years and 11 months. He still has fully exempt status via a Major Medical Extension with three starts remaining. It dates back to time missed in 2013 due to an injured back. Since his last start at Greenbrier in 2015, he traded in his golf threads for the suit-and-tie world of commercial real estate in his native Dallas. With his 50th birthday on the horizon on July 29, it’s reasonable to consider that he might give it a go in some fashion on the PGA TOUR Champions, but until now, you would’ve had more luck seeing him if you were in search of some vacant office space.
Charley Hoffman … After slotting 69th in the Official World Golf Ranking on May 24 and when the top 60 gained entry into the U.S. Open, he boxed out for position at 58th in the latest update to capitalize on the second checkpoint for entry. He’s been on fire for months, and he’s a San Diego native, so jump on him quickly in prop considerations at Torrey Pines.
Si Woo Kim … Oddly enough, and as of Tuesday, he’s the only golfer who already was eligible for the U.S. Open at the commitment deadline for the Palmetto Championship at Congaree and who has withdrawn since.
Branden Grace, Sung Kang, Peter Malnati, Troy Merritt … Each successfully qualified for the U.S. Open at sectionals this week.
Doug Ghim, Nate Lashley, Kyle Stanley and Danny Willett … None qualified for the U.S. Open, so it’ll be an extended break for each. Of note, Willett’s string of five guaranteed exemptions into the U.S. Open for winning the 2016 Masters ended with the first U.S. Open of the 2020-21 season.
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Bryson DeChambeau T18
2 Jordan Spieth T18
3 Jon Rahm WD
4 Rory McIlroy T18
5 Collin Morikawa P2
6 Louis Oosthuizen T18
7 Hideki Matsuyama T62
8 Xander Schauffele T11
9 Justin Thomas T42
10 Corey Conners T53
11 Patrick Cantlay Win
12 Tony Finau T32
13 Charley Hoffman T57
14 Viktor Hovland T47
15 Cameron Smith MC
Wild Card Patrick Reed 5th
SLEEPERS RECAP – Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide
Chris Kirk T26
Luke List MC
Patrick Rodgers MC
Brendan Steele T37
Kevin Streelman T13
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE MEMBERS OF THE PGA TOUR
June 8 … none
June 9 … none
June 10 … Xinjun Zhang (34)
June 11 … Ben Taylor (29)
June 12 … none
June 13 … Peter Malnati (34)
June 14 … none
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