The bubble watch begins for summer Opens
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The U.S. Open is a month before the British Open.
Qualifying through the world ranking is in a different order.
The British Open takes the top 50 in the world ranking that is published after next week, and with two tournaments left, a few players have some work to do.
That starts with Luke Donald, who has qualified for every Open Championship since 2002 (he missed in 2008 with an injury).
Donald is No. 60 in the world ranking and plays next week in the BMW PGA Championship.
Ben Martin, who missed the playoff at the TPC Sawgrass by one shot, moved up to No. 51 this week. He is playing in the Wells Fargo Championship.
Players still have other avenues for which to qualify for St. Andrews, either by top finishes at select tournaments or by being ranked high enough in the European Tour or PGA Tour money list. The world ranking figures to be the best bet.
As for the U.S. Open, the cutoff to reach the top 60 and earn an exemption is May 25, which is after the two Texas events on the PGA Tour, and after the Irish Open on the European Tour schedule. Kevin Kisner has lost in playoffs twice in the past month, though that at least moved him to No. 66 and within range.
The U.S. Open also has another cutoff for the top 60 on the Monday of the U.S. Open (June 15). Two players got into the U.S. Open after the final ranking cutoff a week ago, including Kevin Na, who tied for 12th.
THOMAS TURNAROUND: Justin Thomas is averaging right at 300 yards a drive in his rookie year on the PGA Tour.
But he wasn’t always this long a hitter. Far from it.
“He would call from an AJGA tournament and I’d say, ‘What’s the number?’ And he’d say it was six,” said his father, Mike Thomas, a former PGA of America director and the longtime pro at Harmony Landing outside Louisville, Kentucky.
“That was the number of holes he couldn’t reach.”
Most of them were par 4s, though Justin Thomas said he was all but certain to hit driver on at least one of the par 3s.
“I hit it so short,” he said.
His father recalls one tournament where Thomas was paired with kids who were being recruited. The coaches watched a young teenager unable to get to three or four holes and still shooting 69. “Typical of him being so competitive, he said it should have been 67,” his father said.
Somewhere around his junior year in high school, Justin Thomas began to move it through a combination of getting stronger and technique. Distance no longer is an issue, and Thomas continues to amaze with his power despite being only about 5-foot-10 and barely 160 pounds.
And led to another story about his size.
Thomas recalls his freshman year at Alabama when a friend called concerned over what he had read on the school’s website. It listed Thomas at 6-foot, 180 pounds. His buddy asked what happened to him. Thomas went to the coach.
“He said he wasn’t going to have recruits looking at some guy on the team who was 5-10, 130,” Thomas said.
PACING HIMSELF: Geoff Ogilvy tied for 24th at The Players Championship, his highest finish of the year. Even more notable is that it was only his eighth tournament.
The Players was the start of what likely will be four in a row, which is rare for the former U.S. Open champion. But there’s a purpose to it.
“I’ve been underplaying on purpose, because I very often feel that in the summer I’m spent,” Ogilvy said. “This was the year to experiment and toy with the schedule a little bit. I don’t think I’ve played enough tournaments to this point.”
He goes from Quail Hollow to Colonial and likely will play the Byron Nelson. If not, he would go to Memorial. And after the U.S. Open, he’s headed for a holiday at home in Australia before going to St. Andrews.
There’s only one problem.
By saving himself for the summer months, what if it’s a short summer? Ogilvy is No. 159 in the FedEx Cup. His season could end in August. What if he doesn’t even qualify for the playoff events?
“I figure there’s always time,” he said. “And if I don’t, I don’t. It’s not the end of the world. I’ve spent so much time worrying about that, and it’s not conducive to playing well. Last year proved that. I had a horrific year. I win one week and it changes everything. One week and 27 holes.”
The one week was a win in Reno. The 27 holes were at the TPC Boston, which led to a runner-up finish and put him into the Tour Championship.
“Maybe I have that one week at St. Andrews or Chambers Bay or next week, whatever,” he said. “Stop chasing it. Stop worrying.”
DIFFERENT ROADS: On the same day that Rickie Fowler won The Players Championship and its $1.8 million prize, Rhys Davies of Wales won a Challenge Tour event in Turkey. It was his first victory in more than five years.
Fowler and Davies played at Royal County Down in 2007 at the Walker Cup, and Davies must have left quite an impression. He beat Fowler, 3 and 2, in the Sunday singles. If that wasn’t enough, Davies had no trouble in the Saturday singles with his 5-and-4 victory over Dustin Johnson.
Davies’ previous win was the Hassan Trophy, when he rallied to beat Louis Oosthuizen. That was in 2010, when he climbed as high as No. 44 in the world.
“Sometimes it’s been really horrible in the last couple of years, I’m not going to pretend,” Davies said. “It’s been quite dark sometimes. But I always felt that if I could get in the mix, I could win again. Sometimes it was so bad I didn’t know where the next good round was going to come from. That’s all I’ve been looking for, one good score. I know that seems crazy, but it was as simple as that.”
DIVOTS: One year after he was No. 1 in the world, Adam Scott is no longer in the top 10. Scott dropped to No. 11 this week. The previous time he was out of the top 10 was the week before his runner-up finish in the 2012 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. ... After missing the cut in his American debut this year, Rory McIlroy has finished out of the top 10 only one time in five starts. That was at Bay Hill, where he tied for 11th. ... The USGA accepted a record 1,873 entries for the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania. That breaks the record of 1,702 entries for last year’s Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2. ... Sergio Garcia’s 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass was the fourth time he had made a birdie putt of 30 feet or longer on the island green. ... Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle have become honorary members of the Royal & Ancient.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Going into the final round of The Players Championship, No. 18 was the only hole at the TPC Sawgrass that Rickie Fowler had failed to birdie in his career. He made birdie that wound up getting him into a playoff that he won.
FINAL WORD: “This game is too dad gum hard to get caught up in who’s rated where. Just go play your butt off and see what happens.” — Kevin Kisner.