Umm... awkward.

Ok, it’s not that mysterious after all. In fact, it’s simple: carry a 1.4 or under handicap, fill out the application form, pay the application fee, and report to your regional qualifying course. That, my friends, is easier than 4-foot uphill right-to-left birdie putt. Seriously, this process makes choosing between a cheeseburger and a hamburger look like rocket science. The actual playing portion of the qualifying process is a little different story, however.

A player can enter the US Open one of two ways: earn one of the various exemptions, or truly earn your spot thru one of 14 regional competitions (12 national, 2 international) for one of roughly 80 available slots. While becoming one of 80 may not seem that difficult, consider that approximately 10,000 players across 120 courses nationwide start at local qualifying. Players good (or lucky) enough to make it thru locals then move on to a more elite group of players at regionals, where a stellar 36-hole day will earn a player the chance of a lifetime.  As I’ve stated before, I’m terrible at math, but I’m pretty sure that’s less than a percent of players who will earn the right to play two rounds of the US Open. Like I said above, the easiest part is applying and essentially forfeiting the entry fee.

Almost every sport’s fan is well aware when celebrities and sports figures make an effort to play in the best of the major championships. This year was no different when former MLB pitcher John Smoltz and Cowgirls’ quarterback Tony Romo both made impressive runs at qualifying, yet came up short.  Some casual golf fans will also keep an eye out during qualifying to check up on previous PGA winners who have failed to earn an exemption or have seen theirs expire.  It can truly be a mixed batch, with some players  really desperate for cash in the midst of their roller-coaster careers and others who simply want to add another US Open experience to their resume. And in between the celebs and journeyman, you’ll find your average scratch golfer looking to capitalize on one of the greatest opportunities in sports – your Roy McAvoys of the world.

Considering this simple and extremely fair nature of  US Open qualifying, one would conclude that there’s rarely (if any) complaints about specific players being left out. Oh right, this is The United States of America – the same country that thinks games like dodgeball and musical chairs are damaging to a child’s development. Enter, Tom Lehman:

You have the Memorial, so you have all the top players are here, from both Europe and the U.S..  Justin Rose was here qualifying, Rickie Fowler is qualifying. I just feel to have 15 spots here is a slap in the face. It really is. It’s a real quality field.

I just feel, if you’re going to err on one side or the other, err on the American soil. More here, less there, versus more there and less here. That just doesn’t sit well with me. I think 11 spots over there is way too many.

Does he have a point? Maybe. The field in the English qualifier was fairly weak. However, if players like Rose and Fowler play consistently well during the season they don’t have to worry about qualifying thru sectionals. I would love to see Fowler at Pebble next weekend, but he’s young and will have ample opportunities in the future. Rose, on the other hand, has just been a steaming pile of letdown since he burst on the scene in the late 90’s – no one will miss him.  So spare me and everyone else the whiney excuses, Mr. Lehman. For approximately $150, travel expenses, and several well-played rounds, anyone can play in the US Open. Well, at least 36-holes anyway…

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