DeChambeau Earns Return Trip to U.S. Open
By Dave Shedloski
POWELL, Ohio – Having waived his U.S. Open exemption to turn professional after the Masters Tournament, Bryson DeChambeau, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, had to endure the enervating self-generated pressure of Monday’s sectional qualifying.
He handled it with aplomb. A return to the Columbus, Ohio, area proved the ticket. Again.
Six birdies in an 11-hole stretch at Wedgewood Golf & Country Club propelled the 2015 NCAA champion to a 7-under-par 63 and his second straight U.S. Open berth, at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club.
“It’s definitely a feeling of relief and happiness,” DeChambeau, of Clovis, Calif., said after tying for second with local product Ethan Tracy at 9-under 133, one stroke behind medalist Carlos Ortiz, of Mexico. “To make it through again is not easy, especially after playing the Memorial and playing two golf courses I’ve never played before. But I hit it really well. I put the pedal to the metal.”
DeChambeau, who won the U.S. Amateur last year at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club, near Chicago, said he was pointing toward the sectional qualifier even as he was focused on his budding pro career. DeChambeau made his professional debut in the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island, S.C., the week after he finished tied for 21st and was low amateur at Augusta National Golf Club.
DeChambeau missed the cut in last year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay at 9 over par.
“That is one thing I wanted to do, and now I’ve been able to do it two years now up here,” he said. “I wanted another shot at it. I don't know how else to explain it except that I’m blessed to be doing this again.”
Ortiz, 25, of Guadalajara, was an unlikely medalist. He has missed the cut in 12 of the 16 events he’s played on the PGA Tour this year and has broken 70 in just two of his last 20 rounds. But on Monday it all clicked as he shot a pair of 66s at Wedgewood and Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club for a 132 aggregate total. The U.S. Open will be his first major championship start.
“My game was right there. I made putts, I hit it close, I drove it pretty decent,” said an ebullient Ortiz, who completed his second round minutes before play was halted at 5:43 p.m. EDT due to thunderstorms. “My game has been on and off. Earlier in the year, I struggled a bit and I lost my confidence, but I feel great with my game now. It’s good to be able to put two good rounds together.”
The suspension of play lasted 1 hour, 57 minutes, and forced up to 16 players to return at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, depending on who decides to return. Six players who finished at 5-under 137 returned to Wedgewood to determine the final five berths. U.S. Junior Amateur champions Jason Allred (1997) and Scottie Scheffler survived as did former world No. 1 Luke Donald. Richard Schembechler II, whose grandfather's cousin was legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, and two-time USA Walker Cup competitor Patrick Rodgers also punched their tickets to Oakmont. Daniel Summerhays, who bogeyed the second playoff hole, is the first alternate.
Adam Hadwin, of Canada, secured the second alternate from a field of 10 players who finished at 4-under 138.
Tracy, 26, of Galloway, Ohio, about 20 miles south of the two sectional sites, might have been as much of a surprise as Ortiz. He led after a morning 65 at Kinsale and then hung tough on the more difficult Wedgewood layout for a 68. A mini-tour player with only conditional status on the Web.com Tour, Tracy’s claim to fame is his 2011 Western Amateur victory, in which he defeated reigning U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth along the way.
“I can’t believe it. It hasn’t sunk in,” said Tracy, who came in with a bit more local knowledge than the rest of the field. “It means a lot. It’s our national championship. I love USGA events. I just can’t wait to get to Oakmont."
One more eye-opener was 52-year-old Wes Short Jr., of Austin, Texas, who earned his first U.S. Open berth, one of the oldest players to navigate sectional qualifying to reach his first national championship. “I’ve always wanted to play in a U.S. Open, and now I’m going to play in probably the toughest one you can have,” said Short, who persevered on just four hours of sleep after competing in a PGA Tour Champions event in Iowa.
Others assured of a spot at Oakmont are PGA Tour players Brendan Steele, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Streelman and Spencer Levin. Steele, the 36-hole leader at the Memorial, finished fourth on Monday at 134. Streelman and Levin joined Short at 7-under 135. A second-round 65 at Kinsale gave Kokrak, a Cleveland native, 136.
Among the 10 players scheduled to return for the playoff for second alternate is Erik Compton, of Miami, Fla., a double-heart transplant recipient who finished in an inspiring tie for second in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.