The U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier is routinely considered "the longest day in golf". Golfers from all over who advanced out of their local qualifier head to the sectional qualifiers to play 36 holes with a precious few spots on the line into the U.S. Open.
Four spots were up for grabs Monday at the Bears Club in Jupiter. One name on the list stood out in particular, and not just because he has a house inside the club and is a resident member.
Luke Donald at one point in 2012 was the #1 ranked golfer in the World. Now, after some less than steller play as of recent, found himself outside the top 60 and having to qualify through a sectional qualifier for what he said was the first time in “10 or 11 years”.
“It’s not something I’m very accustomed to,” Donald said. “But I haven’t played well enough in the last 12, 18 months, so my ranking slipped and (I) found myself in this position.”
Donald qualified, tying for Medalist honors at 4-under par, but it wasn't as easy as you might have thought for the resident Bears Club member.
Donald found himself quickly in a hole after a bogey and double bogey left him at +3 through his first six holes. He rebounded nicely and had 10 birdies the rest of the way to shoot rounds of 72 and 68.
For Donald, it was strange at times playing a course that he knows so well in such a different situation.
“The expectation is raised, and you’ve got to manage that,” Donald said. “I had to do a whole yardage book (Sunday); I’ve never done yardages around here. You just use your laser and ride around in your golf cart. So it’s a little different. But the advantage is you’re familiar with the course; you know where to miss it and not to miss it. But it’s a little heightened pressure playing in a place where you expect to do well.”
Donald was joined at 4-under by amatuer and Florida State Junior Jack Maguire and Web.com tour player Andrew Pope. The final spot went to amateur Sam Horsfield when he defeated Cristobal Del Solar on the second playoff hole with a birdie to earn that final spot. Del Solar and Ryn Ott will be alternates.
The U.S. Open will be held next week at Chambers Bay Golf Club in Washington. It's the first time the course is hosting a U.S. Open and as a result, many of the golfers have limited or no knowledge of the course, including Donald.
“I just know what I’ve read and what I’ve heard,” he said. “It’s going to be a little different; a links golf course. I’ve heard mixed reviews; I won’t make any opinions until I see it.”