Golf notebook: Manassero tops European qualifying for U.S. Open

Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


--One day after losing the BMW PGA Championship to Matteo Manassero of Italy in a playoff, Simon Khan of England kept his good play going by posting the low score in European qualifying for the U.S. Open at Walton Heath Golf Club in Walton Heath, England.
Khan, 40, shot 67-70--137, 7 under par, playing the Old Course first, followed by the New Course, to earn his trip to Merion next week. He grabbed the first of 12 available qualifying slots.
"I only slept for about a half-an-hour last night, going over (the loss) in my head," said Khan, who qualified for the U.S. Open for the third time in eight attempts. "And I even thought about pulling out (of the qualifier), but this is my job.
"But it's just brilliant I'm going to Merion. I don't know much about the course. All I know is (Ben) Hogan's famous picture at the last, which is iconic."
Paul Casey of England, who has played on the European Ryder Cup team three times but has battled injuries the last few years, shot 74-64--138 to tie for second with Jaco Van Zyl of South Africa, who shot 71-67--138 and will be playing in his first major.
Casey, who reached a career high of No. 3 in the World Golf Rankings by winning the 2009 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, has slipped to No. 157 but will be playing in the second major of the year for the 10th time.
"To qualify for the U.S. Open is great because, for me, it's right up there as one of the two most important golf tournaments we play in the world," said Casey, who competed in major qualifying for the first time in his 13-year career. "And while I am putting the (British) Open Championship up there on top, America's national open championship is right up there.
"I don't know much about Merion, so I will have to do my homework, and I'm just ecstatic. But now that I have got through the qualifier, there is no reason why you can't compete in the U.S. Open, and Michael Campbell showed that when he qualified here in 2005 and then won at Pinehurst."
Morten Orum Madsen of Denmark qualified fourth at 67-72--139, while Peter Hedblom of Sweden shot 67-73--138 to tie for fifth with Eddie Pepperell of England, who wound up at 70-70--140, and Marcus Fraser of Australia, who finished at 71-69--140.
Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain (68-73--141), Chris Doak of Scotland (71-70 141), David Howell of England (68-73--141), Estanislao Goya of Argentina (69-72--141) and John Parry of England (66-75--141) survived a six-man playoff for the final five qualifying spots.
Rikard Karlberg of Sweden, who shot 70-71--141, was the odd man out in the playoff.
--Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who was the No. 1 amateur in the world before turning pro in April, had the low score in Asian qualifying for the U.S. Open by shooting 67-65--132, 8 under par, on the West Course at Ohtone Country Club in Ibaraki, Japan. Five players made the U.S. Open field from Ohtone.
The 21-year-old Matsuyama, a two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur who twice made the cut in the Masters as a teenager, will be playing in the U.S. Open for the first time next week at Merion.
"I'm usually not that good at playing 36 holes (in one day)," said Matsuyama, who has won twice on the Japan Golf Tour, including once as an amateur. "I was able to play solid golf, and I feel that my game has gotten better.
"Unless you're playing (in a major), there's no way to improve your technique. I'd like to make the cut and aim to finish high on the leaderboard."
Jung-Gon Hwang of South Korea was second at 68-68--136, followed by Yui Ueda of Japan at 65-72--137.
Yoshinobu Tsukada of Japan (72-66 138) and Hiroyuki Fujita of Japan (68-70--138) earned the last two spots in a playoff, with Japan's Masanori Kobayashi (69-69--138) missing out.
--Boo Weekley and Matteo Manassero not only found the winner's circle two weeks ago, but they also earned trips to the U.S. Open next week at Merion.
Manassero, 20, beat Simon Khan in a playoff to capture the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, near London, on the same day Weekley, 39, outlasted Matt Kuchar to win the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
"I'm really excited," said Manassero, who was able to scrap plans to play in European Qualifying for the U.S. Open at Walton Heath the day after his victory. "Besides this victory, you get all of these achievements that are amazing."
Manassero and Weekley were two of 26 players who earned spots in the field for the second major of the year by being in the top 60 of the World Golf Rankings as of May 27.
Weekley, who celebrated his victory with dinner at Taco Bell, jumped 56 spots to No. 55 in the world with his first victory since the 2008 Verizon Heritage. Manassero solidified his position, climbing 29 spots to No. 28.
Also making the field by being in the top 60 of the rankings are Ian Poulter of England, Jason Day of Australia, Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium, Tim Clark of South Africa, Kevin Streelman, George Coetzee of South Africa, Jamie Donaldson of Wales, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain, Branden Grace of South Africa, Bill Haas, Peter Hanson of Sweden, Russell Henley, Billy Horschel, Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden, Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, Martin Laird of Scotland, Paul Lawrie of Scotland, Marc Leishman of Australia, Francesco Molinari of Italy, Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark, D.A. Points, Marcel Siem of Germany, Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Richard Sterne of South Africa.
--Commissioner Tim Finchem, via a conference call, met with the PGA Tour's 16-member Player Advisory Council for an hour and a half to discuss the ban of anchored putters by the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.
The PGA Tour and the PGA of America, who seem to be the only golf bodies in the world opposing the ban that will take effect in 2016, apparently are considering if they should go their own way on the issue.
"It's a tough one because there's a lot of passion," said Davis Love III, a member of the PAC and a four-time player director on the PGA Tour's Policy Board, which ultimately will decide the issue for its organization.
"There is a sentiment to either agree with it and move on, which is what we ought to do, or let's start making our own rules. That's the big decision here now. Maybe there is a silver lining here. Maybe it becomes a better relationship with the USGA moving ahead."
With nine of the 16 members of the PAC playing in the Memorial Tournament last week, the conference call was set up in a meeting room at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
PAC member Doug LaBelle said opinions at the meeting were mixed.
"There were a lot of opinions, and they were divided to be honest," LaBelle said. "We are going to continue to gather information and figure out what is best for us going forward."
There apparently was some discussion that if the PGA Tour goes along with the ban, it should be done as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the rule to go into effect in three years, as the USGA and R&A have mandated.
There apparently is sentiment among some of the other members, and an unknown portion of the rank-and-file, that the PGA Tour should be making its own rules.
Nothing was decided during the 90-minute meeting and no decision is expected until the PGA Tour Policy Board meets early in July at the Greenbrier Classic, if then.
--Lucy Li, a 10-year-old who is golf's newest phenom, will become the second-youngest player in United States Amateur Public Links Championship history when the tournament is played June 17-22 at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Okla.
Li, who shot 4-over-par 76 to earn one of four available spots in qualifying at Painted Desert Golf Club in Las Vegas, will be 10 years, 8 months and 16 days old on the first day of the tournament.
The youngest player in tournament history was Allisen Corpuz, who was 10 years, 3 months and 9 days old when she played in 2008. Michelle Wie also was 10 when she qualified for the tournament in 2000.
"Congrats to my student Lucy Li for qualifying for US womens publinks at 10 years old!" noted instructor Jim McLean posted on Twitter after learning of Li's success in the qualifier.
McLean also posted a video of Li's swing.
Li, who is a student at the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort in Miami, reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 California Women's Amateur Championship before being ousted by 16-year-old Casie Cathrea of Livermore, Calif., 5 and 3. Cathrea won the tournament in 2009 at the age of 12.
After failing to qualify for the 2012 and 2013 U.S. Women's Open, Li arrived at Painted Desert four days before the qualifier and spent about 10 hours per day working on her game.
In February, Li captured the South Florida Junior PGA Championship at Club Med Sandpiper in Port St. Lucie, Fla., beating girls aged 14 to 18.
Li was born in Stanford, Calif., and lived nearby in Redwood Shores until moving to Doral with her parents a few years ago so she could attend the Jim McLean Golf School.
--Fred Couples selected Davis Love III to be a captain's assistant for the United States team in the Presidents Cup in October.
Couples, who will serve as captain of the U.S. team for the third consecutive time, made the announcement last week before the start of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, where the Presidents Cup will be played.
"(Davis) is one of my closest friends, and his experience as a team member and Ryder Cup captain will be invaluable at Muirfield in October," said Couples, who is 2-0 as captain of the U.S. team.
"I know his friendships and relationships with the players out on tour will also be a huge help to me leading into the Presidents Cup. It's going to be a great event, and we're going to have a lot of fun, there's no doubt about that."
Love played in the Presidents Cup six times (1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005) and also was a six-time member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team (1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2004), and served as U.S. captain for the 2012 Ryder Cup.
A 20-time winner on the PGA Tour, Love had a 16-8-5 playing record in the Presidents Cup, and he teamed with Couples to record a 5-2-1 record in the event.
"(Freddie) helped me out a lot during the Ryder Cup, and I'm really excited to come to a Presidents Cup at Muirfield," said Love, who captured the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot.
"This is going to be an incredible venue for the event, and it will be fun to be back in the team room with the guys again so soon. I hope to play alongside potential U.S. team members a lot this year and help Fred out that way, since I'm on (the PGA Tour) more than he is."
Couples earlier selected Jay Haas as a captain's assistant, a role Haas served in both 2009 and 2011.
The U.S. will have only two captain's assistants, while captain Nick Price of Zimbabwe has selected Shigeki Maruyama of Japan, Mark McNulty of Ireland and Zimbabwe, and Tony Johnstone of Zimbabwe as captain's assistants for the International team.
--La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., which hosted the PGA Tour's Tournament of Champions for 30 years through 1998, will be the site of the 2014 California Amateur Championship.
The California Amateur, one of the nation's oldest state amateur golf championships, was played for the first time in 1912 at Del Monte Golf Course in Monterey.
The tournament was held at Pebble Beach Golf Links from 1919 through 2006 before the event began rotating in 2007 to courses throughout the state, alternating years in Southern California and Northern California.
"It's an honor for La Costa to be chosen to host the California Amateur," said Paul McCormick, vice president and general manager at La Costa Resort and Spa.
"La Costa has been synonymous with the top echelon of golf for more than 40 years, having hosted 37 PGA Tour and LPGA Tour events. Now we are adding one of the game's most distinguished amateur championships to the next era of our golf legacy."
The California Amateur is one of the few major amateur events that Tiger Woods did not win, losing in the semifinals to Ed Cuff Jr. in 1994, the only year he played in the tournament.
However, the list of Cal Amateur champions includes Ken Venturi (1951, 1956), Gene Littler (1953, over Venturi), Bob E. Smith (1967), Johnny Miller (1968), John Cook (1975), Mark O'Meara (1979), Bobby Clampett (1979, 1980), Duffy Waldorf (1984), Charlie Wi (1990), Jason Gore (1997) and Spencer Levin (2004).
Others who have tried but failed to win the title include Phil Mickelson, Corey Pavin, Scott Simpson, Al Geiberger, Dave Stockton, Bob Rosburg and Craig Stadler.
"When you combine La Costa's history of hosting prestigious tournaments with its new renovations, we're confident this will be a terrific championship," said Chris Clark, president of the California Golf Association.
"Players from all over the state should be excited to be a part of this historic event."
This year's tournament, the 102nd California Amateur, will be played June 17-22 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.