Final Six Players Round Out U.S. Open Field
By David Shefter, USGA
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. - Last year, Kevin Kisner was the last player to officially register for the U.S. Open. This year, the 31-year-old from Aiken, S.C., was one of the last players to get into the field.
Kisner, whose later arrival at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club was due to his wife giving birth to the couple’s first child the Monday of championship week, earned one of the final spots in the 156-player field at Chambers Bay after moving inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking as of June 15.
The University of Georgia graduate, now No. 55 in the OWGR, was one of two golfers to take advantage of the last exemption category, joining Andy Sullivan, of England, who is No. 58.
The USGA held a total of six spots heading into championship week. The remaining four went to first alternates from the 10 U.S. sectional qualifying sites: Kevin Chappell, Steve Marino, Jimmy Gunn and Joshua Persons.
Sullivan, Gunn and Persons will be making their U.S. Open debuts.
Last year, Kisner went through sectional qualifying in Memphis, Tenn., but then was delayed getting to Pinehurst when his wife Brittany delivered Kathleen Grace.
This year, Kisner shot up the OWGR – he was No. 282 when he got into the Arnold Palmer Invitational field in March as a last-minute alternate – thanks to a runner-up finish in The Players Championship in May and strong showings at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial (T-5) and the Memorial Tournament (T-8). He was just outside the top 60 during the first OWGR cutoff on May 25, so his only hopes of playing the U.S. Open were sectional qualifying or the second OWGR cutoff.
Although he signed up for the Columbus, Ohio, sectional, Kisner chose to withdraw from the 36-hole qualifier. He did not enter the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, preferring to rest his sore back.
“You don’t always want to quit when you’ve been playing well, but if I’m going to give it my all here at the end of the year, and get ready for the [FedEx Cup] playoffs, I figure I need to take some time now, and this is the time to do it,” Kisner told golfchannel.com.
It was a decision that ultimately paid off.
Ditto for Sullivan. The European Tour member also took last week off after recent strong play. Finishing 17th at the BMW PGA Championship and tying for sixth at the Irish Open the following week boosted the 29-year-old from No. 68 to No. 63 in the OWGR. When he tied for 13th in the Memorial, he was just inside the top 60 (56). Despite taking last week off, the 2011 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup competitor stayed inside the magic number to secure his spot at Chambers Bay.
Chappell, a native Californian who owns a home in nearby Kirkland, Wash., received some redemption after three-putting the third playoff hole in virtual darkness at Brookside Golf & Country Club in Columbus to lose out on the last qualifying spot. The 28-year-old will be making his fourth U.S. Open start after posting top-10 results in his first two appearances in 2011 (T-3 at Congressional) and 2012 (T-10 at Olympic).
Marino, 35, of Tequesta, Fla., edged Peter Malnati and Rod Pampling for the first alternate spot out of the sectional qualifier at the Northwood Club in Dallas. This will be his fifth U.S. Open, with his best finish a tie for 63rd in 2010 at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links.
Gunn, 34, of Scotland, beat PGA Tour veteran J.J. Henry in a playoff at Germantown Country Club in Memphis for the first-alternate spot. He moved to the U.S. eight years ago with the hope of pursuing a professional golf career. Gunn made 11 of 20 cuts on the Web.com Tour in 2014, but does not have full-time status on either the Web.com or PGA Tour in 2015.
Persons, 31, of Fargo, N.D., lost a three-hole playoff to Timothy O’Neal at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., for the final qualifying spot. He has made four of nine cuts this year on the Web.com Tour.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.