June 16, 2011
You've worked your entire life to earn a chance to play in the U.S. Open, and you finally do it. There's just one problem: It's going to cost you $24,000. So ... would you do it?
Robert Rock faced just that choice. An Englishman, he qualified to play in his first U.S. Open a few weeks ago. And he'd just won the BMW Italian Open, his first win on the European Tour, when he discovered that visa problems were hampering his flight to the United States. So he was stuck on the other side of the Atlantic, and needed a last-second visa to get into the United States. That doesn't come cheap; he paid £15,000 in legal fees, roughly equal to $24,000, to fast-track the visa process. (Bureaucracy!) He then hopped a flight from Turin, Italy, to London, and another one Wednesday night to Newark, N.J.
But Jersey ain't D.C., where the Open is taking place, and so Rock had to take a cab another few hours south, finally arriving just hours before teeing off. Oh, and he says that cab ride cost him another $1,000. He missed the Tuesday registration period, but did manage to keep in contact with USGA officials, thereby staying eligible for the tournament.
But there's more; it may not qualify as irony, but it's certainly cringeworthy: The first alternate, the guy who would have played if Rock hadn't made it, was none other than Richie Ramsay. You may remember Ramsay; he was the guy who left early from a qualifier late last month even though, as it turned out, his score was good enough to get into a playoff. This time he was on time and ready to go, but it didn't matter one bit.
In order to recoup his money, Rock will likely need to at least make the cut, and probably finish inside the top 50. Was it worth it? We'll know by Sunday.
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