Daily Digest: Short Takes Long View

Bubba Watson is making sure to practice the myriad of shots required to play well at Oakmont. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)
Bubba Watson is making sure to practice the myriad of shots required to play well at Oakmont. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

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Wes Short Jr., 52, is the oldest player to ever advance into the U.S. Open out of local and sectional qualifying. What makes it sweeter is that Short, of Austin, Texas, never got into the championship before this week, although he first attempted to qualify in 1982, at age 18.

“After all these years, I didn’t know if I was ever going to play in one,” said Short, who has competed in two U.S. Senior Opens and plays on the PGA Tour Champions. “I had actually been in a couple of playoffs, I think 2006 or 2007 was the last time. I just think I can still play a little bit so I keep trying to qualify.”

Short played a little bit on June 6, shooting a combined 7-under-par 135 (69-66) in Powell, Ohio, to tie for fifth among 13 players to advance to Oakmont. It had taken a playoff to get to Ohio, as Short shot 70 and earned his way into the sectional out of a 6-for-5 playoff at The Hills Country Club in his hometown.

“People that I grew up playing golf with, like [2015 U.S. Senior Open champion] Jeff Maggert and Omar Uresti, kept me motivated,” said Short. “I wish I’d have done it a little bit earlier in life, but sometimes things are meant to happen a little later.”

Short prepared for Oakmont by competing in the Senior Players Championship last week, where he finished fifth. He asked Rocco Mediate, the runner-up in the 2008 U.S. Open, for tips.

“[Rocco] said to hit it straight and practice a lot of 8-footers,” said Short.

Faxon’s Memorable Day

Brad Faxon, who will provide analysis for Fox Sports this week, was a highly ranked amateur player when he competed in the 1983 U.S. Open at Oakmont, which led to one of his favorite moments in the game.

“I had played in the Walker Cup, and my buddy from Furman [University] caddied for me here,” said Faxon. “He made his plane reservation for Saturday, thinking that I would miss the cut. I ended up making a 15-footer for bogey on 18 to sneak in.”

Faxon’s father, also named Brad, took over the bag, and as Faxon competed on Sunday – Father’s Day, of course – he and fellow-competitor D.A. Weibring were informed they were on the clock.

“So we were on the 15th hole, trying to scamper through,” Faxon recalled. “We both hit our tee shots and go scrambling down the fairway. When I looked back, my dad was standing on the tee watching Arnold Palmer hit his second shot on the 18th fairway, and I’m like, Dad, come on!”

Faxon’s father came running up the fairway, clubs rattling, and said, “I’ve never been that close to Arnold.”

“I don’t think there’s a Rules official that would have given us a two-stroke penalty if they heard that story,” Faxon said.

Watson’s Tuesday Technique

Bubba Watson hit a 221-yard 7-iron and a 135-yard 7-wood into the par-4 10th hole during his practice round Tuesday afternoon. That's not a misprint.

The 7-iron from the fairway followed a 4-iron tee shot on the downhill, 462-yard hole. But he hit a second ball off the tee, this one with his driver, to the delight of spectators in the grandstand. That tee shot leaked into the left rough, but the lie was decent. However, instead of hitting a wedge, he pulled a 7-wood and bunted the ball down the fairway and onto the green.

Watson's caddie, Ted Scott, just shook his head.

Waiting Game

A couple of alternates were biding their time at the practice area on Tuesday. Austin Connelly, the first alternate from the Vancouver, Wash., sectional, and Bryan Fox, the first alternate from the Roswell, Ga., sectional, hit balls and putted. Alternates have access to the practice facilities and can walk the championship course, but are not allowed to play it.

Connelly and Fox are both hoping that someone in the 156-player field withdraws. Eight alternates have already been added to the field: three last week when Tiger Woods, Darren Clarke and Thongchai Jaidee withdrew, and five more on Monday when only one golfer previously not in the field got inside the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking (William McGirt).

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org. Dave Shedloski and David Shefter contributed.