Olin Browne sought out a USGA official to ask him the proper way to withdraw from U.S. Open qualifying, figuring his 73 over the first 18 holes left him no chance. Good thing he changed his mind.
Browne needed a low score and wound up with a magical one, closing birdie-eagle-eagle to shoot 59 and join 21 other players who qualified for the U.S. Open at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md.
''I asked the scorer what the protocol was for withdrawing,'' Browne said Tuesday. ''I didn't want to get in trouble with the USGA if I bailed out. But it didn't feel right not playing. I feel like every round is an opportunity to learn something.''
His 73-59 put him at 10-under 132 and three shots behind medalist J.P. Hayes.
Others who qualified at Woodmont, where the qualifier was delayed overnight because of storms, were Tommy Armour III, Rocco Mediate and former PGA champion Steve Elkington.
At East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, also delayed by weather, former U.S. Amateur champion Matt Kuchar shot 66 in his second round and narrowly got one of the six spots. The medalist was Derek Brown (65-66) at 9-under 131.
Browne had never shot 59, and there was only one small piece of bad news it wasn't even the course record on the South course at Woodmont. Five years ago, Shigeki Maruyama had a 58 during U.S. Open qualifying.
The scores are not official in the record books because it was not an official PGA Tour event. The only sub-60 rounds in official competition are Al Geiberger (1977 Memphis Classic), Chip Beck (1991 Las Vegas Invitational) and David Duval (1999 Bob Hope Classic); and Annika Sorenstam on the LPGA Tour at Phoenix in 2001.
Phil Mickelson shot 59 in the PGA Grand Slam last year in Hawaii.
Browne, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, figured that 7 under par would at least get him into a playoff, and his 30 on the front nine raised his hopes. He knew he needed to finish strong with two par 5s on the final three holes.
He was just off the green with a 3-iron and got up-and-down for birdie on the 16th. From 111 yards in the 17th fairway, he holed out for eagle. Then he ripped a 3-wood from 259 yards on the 18th hole into about 25 feet and made the eagle putt for his 59.
''I thought it was for 58,'' Browne said. ''I've always had trouble with math.''
He finished his round Monday evening, before thunderstorms stopped play. Asked which was better, to shoot golf's magic number or get into the U.S. Open, Browne settled on Pinehurst.
''I suppose getting into the Open is better, because 59 was never a consideration until I holed that shot on 17,'' he said. ''I thought, 'This might be my only chance to do this.' But I believed a birdie would get it done. I got on the green, made the putt, added it up and thought, 'This isn't right.' I can't add.''
It added up to a remarkable return to Pinehurst No. 2 next week.
Other players who qualified at Woodmont were David Denham, Craig Barlow, James Driscoll, Clint Jensen, Rob Rashell, Brandt Snedeker, Omar Uresti, D.J. Brigman, Ryuji Imada, John Mallinger, David Oh, Lee Williams, Michael Putnam, Ian Leggatt, David Hearn, Franklin Langham and Matthew Every.
At East Lake, Brown and Kuchar were joined by Jason Gore, Casey Wittenberg, Aaron Barber and Scott Parel.
At Old Memorial in Tampa, Fla., Lee Rinker shot 69-67 to win medalist honors. The other two spots went to Nick Gilliam and Josh McCumber, the nephew of former PGA Tour player Mark McCumber.
In Kansas City, Mo., Tom Pernice Jr. got the only spot available at Hallbrook Country Club, with rounds of 70-69.
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