U.S. Open Tickets Punched in England Qualifier

Marcus Fraser locked down his third U.S. Open appearance on the first hole of Monday's 5-for-4 playoff at Walton Heath. (USGA/Matthew Harris)
Marcus Fraser locked down his third U.S. Open appearance on the first hole of Monday's 5-for-4 playoff at Walton Heath. (USGA/Matthew Harris)

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SURREY, England – Prior to this past weekend’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, Alexander Levy was sitting precariously inside the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking, which would have made him exempt into the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as of May 25. But Levy slipped from No. 59 to 64, forcing the 24-year-old from France into Monday’s 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier at Walton Heath’s Old and New courses.

Levy didn’t seem bothered by the extra golf. He followed a 6-under 66 on the Old Course with a 5-under 67 on the New to earn medalist honors at 11-under 133. Levy was one of 11 golfers to qualify in one of the two international qualifying events. Five others qualified earlier on Monday in Japan.

A birdie on the final hole ensured Levy finished one stroke clear of Shiv Kapur, of India, in the 82-player field. It will be Levy’s second major-championship appearance after finishing tied for 30th in last year’s PGA Championship.

I’m really happy. I played really good golf for the two 18 holes,” said Levy. “It’s nice to play the U.S Open. I was a little upset to slip out of the top 60 after [the BMW PGA Championship] so it’s great to now get in.”

Englishman John Parry, who tied for 28th in the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, finished at 9-under 135, while Sweden’s Alex Noren, who was 1 over par through 19 holes of the qualifier, surged up the leader board with eight birdies and an eagle in the space of 15 holes to earn his third U.S. Open appearance, closing with a 64 to take the fourthspot..

Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard shared fifth place at 7-under with Englishman Jason Palmer, who ensured there will be another notable storyline to emerge from Walton Heath, 10 years after New Zealand’s Michael Campbell qualified there in the first year of international qualifying and went on to win the championship at Pinehurst No. 2.

After turning to chipping one handed to overcome the ‘yips’, Palmer is in his rookie season on the European Tour and has vowed to continue using his unorthodox method when he tees it up in a major championship for the first time next month.

“I’m absolutely thrilled. I’ve always wanted to play in a major. I knew this would present a good opportunity to do it because I love Walton Heath,” said Palmer, who carded rounds of 69 and 68 on Monday. “I doubt there have been many one-handed chippers at the U.S. Open before. The rough might be a bit too deep to play one-handed, so I’ll have to assess it when I get there, but it is a problem I’m looking forward to have.”

Germany’s Marcel Siem, who had the cut in all three previous U.S. Open appearances, including a tie for 12th in 2014, finished at 6-under par to take the seventh spot. The final four spots were decided in a five-person playoff after Tjaart Van Der Walt, of South Africa, carded a birdie and two eagles in his last six holes to make it a five-way tie for eighth place at five under par.

Australian Marcus Fraser nailed down his third U.S. Open appearance on the first playoff hole, before the South African trio of Van Der Walt, Thomas Aiken and Garth Mulroy secured their spots on the third playoff hole, with Welshman Oliver Farr the odd man out.

Farr had to settle for the first alternate spot, with Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti coming through a separate five-man playoff to claim the second and final alternate spot.

One notable who failed to qualify was Peter Uihlein of the USA. Uihlein, who won the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay, carded rounds of 71-69 to miss the playoff by one stroke. Also failing to qualify was three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, of Ireland (139) and 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, of England (150).