Olesen completes dream 24 hours as Johnston leads U.S. Open Qualifiers
SURREY (UK) & OHIO (USA), June 4: Thorbjørn Olesen completed a dream 24 hours as the Dane booked his place in next week’s U.S. Open Championship at the Sectional Qualifier in Walton Heath Golf Club, the day after becoming a Rolex Series champion with the biggest victory of his career at the Italian Open.
It was a typically dramatic day at Walton Heath Golf Club – which will host the British Masters supported by Sky Sports later this year – as 107 players battled it out over 36 holes for just 14 spots in the year’s second Major Championship at Shinnecock Hills in New York.
Fan favourite Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston was among the four British players who took the first four spots, the Englishman making it three consecutive successful qualifications through this venue after finishing top of the leaderboard on ten under par alongside countryman James Morrison. Playing partners Matt Southgate of England and Richie Ramsay of Scotland shared third spot on nine under.
Two-time European Tour winner Matt Wallace and 2016 Amateur Champion Scott Gregory were among the others to qualify while Olesen shared 12th place with Norwegian amateur Kristoffer Reitan on six under.
That meant they both avoided the eight-man play-off – with one of the nine players tied for 13th having missed the play-off after departing the venue early. The action went late into the evening, and the man to emerge victorious by claiming the one and only spot available was Englishman Paul Waring, who overcame compatriot Ryan Evans after it came down to just two players on the fourth extra hole.
A visibly tired Johnston said: “It’s a tough day, after coming in late from Italy last night. I got in late and didn’t sleep much, and then two rounds today. It’s tough but it’s been a good day.
“It is difficult, but you have to just get out there and play and get yourself around the fact that you’re not going to get much sleep. That’s the kind of mindset you’ve got to get into.
“I played lovely early on and then I started nicely in my second round too, but then I scrambled hard on the back nine coming in, but I’ve done enough so it’s good.
“The last event I played in New York area was the US PGA Championship at Baltusrol and that was wild! So I’m expecting it’s going to be loud and it’ll be good fun. I haven’t played there before but I’ve heard some really good things about it so I’m really looking forward to playing there.”
Richie Ramsay said: “There was a good bit of pressure coming down the stretch there but I thrive under that, I love the pressure. Obviously it’s a tough golf course, if you hit a tee-shot off line you can really get into some bother.
“But I did it last year and it’s great to follow it up this year. I can’t wait to play Shinnecock again because I’ve played it once before and it’s some golf course, beautiful.
“I like the long wispy grass, similar to what they’ve got here at Walton Heath. I just remember the old white club house that sits on top of the hill and looks over a large part of the golf course. It’s such a great test of golf, sand based and hopefully it plays firm, bouncy and fast. That’s the kind of golf course I love.
“Obviously there’s a fantastic field as usual and just outside one of the best cities in the world if not the best. I think the game is just about there, it shows with my scoring today. I played good in Italy, it’s just a matter of getting the short game dialled in. That shaves quite a few shots off the score.
“I think it’s important that I’ve been there before, to take the wow factor out of it. When I get there on the Monday I’m sure it’ll be impressive to look around but because I’ve been there and done it before I know I can just focus on what I do best which is to just concentrate on my game, go through my practice, my gym work and then I can stand on the tee on Thursday 100 per cent ready to give it everything I’ve got.”
Matthew Southgate said: “I’m absolutely over the moon. Obviously I woke up really early this morning to come down here and play the 36 holes and I got off to a terrible start – I four-putted the first green and I just wanted to break the putter really.
“Obviously I never gave up and set little goals along the way and achieved those and finished off really well on the last nine holes under pressure and knowing what it was for.
“I definitely think it helps when you’ve done this a couple of times before. I’m a bit of a qualifying specialist with Qualifying Schools and Open Championship qualifying and stuff. There’s a different feel to it – you’re hitting putts thinking, ‘keep your head still to get into the US Open’. It’s almost calming, that level of pressure. I find an extra ten per cent focus somewhere that I can’t find at European Tour events, even at Rolex Series events. It’s obviously a skill that I’ve got which is nice.
“I think all the experience will add up if I end up with a chance come back nine on the Sunday at Shinnecock but that’s a long way away. I play golf because I enjoy playing golf and if you can’t enjoy getting on a plane and going out to play the US Open then you might as well quit.
“Ive got a week now to get in the gym, hit it hard and go in the best form I can possibly put myself in on Thursday week.
“I don’t know anything about Shinnecock but I’ve been told it might play fiery and fast which normally suits my game. Obviously the greens will be like glass and I’ve always enjoyed playing on fast greens so I’ll get over there nice and early, get my head around it and go as low as I can.”
Scott Gregory said: “I’m pretty happy. I knew playing the New Course this morning that I had to get off to a quick start, try and place a number. I got it around in five under and to be honest it could have been quite a few better as well.”