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Charlotteans qualify for U.S. Open

Ron Green Jr.
Ron Green Jr., a former Observer staff writer, will write golf columns occasionally for the newspaper.

Mathew Goggin and Robert Karlsson, who both reside in Charlotte, played their way into the U.S. Open on Monday, surviving sectional qualifying to earn spots at Merion next week.

For Karlsson, it was the second time in recent weeks he’s played himself into a major championship, having qualified for the British Open two weeks ago.

Harold Varner III lost in a playoff for the final spot in the qualifier at Woodmont (Md.) Country Club and will be first alternate from that site.

How tough is it to qualify for the U.S. Open?

Among the players who won’t be at Merion are Brendon de Jonge, Jason Kokrak, Johnson Wagner, Charles Howell III, Ryo Ishikawa, Ben Crane, Harris English. Sean O’Hair, J.J. Henry, Pat Perez, Trevor Immelman, Davis Love III, Mark Wilson, Tommy Gainey, Gary Woodland, Jeff Overton, Scott Stallings and Kyle Stanley.

Webb Simpson will defend the title he won at the Olympic Club last year.

“As time passes, I realize how special it is all the more,” Simpson said.

• Wells Fargo Championship winner Derek Ernst recently tweeted a photo of his trophy, which arrived at his Fresno, Calif., home, saying it made his unlikely victory seem even more real.

“I saw it for a day or two and then I left for three weeks,” Ernst said. “I haven’t really put it anywhere. I might put on display at Belmont Country Club in Fresno where I grew up.”

• The First Tee of Charlotte will host a celebrity match featuring NBA star Stephen Curry, Panthers great Steve Smith, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, radio host Taylor Zarzour and television personality Meg Danahey.

The event will be held June 18 at 10 a.m. at the Dr. Charles T. Sifford golf course at Revolution Park. The event is designed to raise awareness for the growing First Tee chapter while inspiring participants who will be paired with the celebrities. The event is open to the public.

• The bermuda conversion continues with Pinehurst Resort announcing last week it is putting Champion ultradwarf grass on the greens at Course No. 8 now, Course No. 3 later in the summer and the big switch will be made on Pinehurst No. 2 after the completion of the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens next year. The resort has already converted the greens on Course No. 1.

• There seems to be a growing sense the PGA Tour will go along with the anchoring ban despite lawsuit threats from some players.

The Tour policy board will address the matter in July. Two prominent users of the anchor technique – Masters champion Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley – said last week that they will not be part of any lawsuit.

“I’m fine with the short putter,” Bradley said.

“There’s no intention of filing a lawsuit or making problems,” said Scott, who has retained legal counsel anyway.

• Just when you think you have Fred Couples figured out, he throws a curveball.

In talking about his visit with President Obama in the White House last week as part of his Presidents Cup captain’s duties, Couples talked about the artwork on the walls in the Oval Office. Turns out, Couples is “an art junkie.”

“I have California art. I have some inexpensive/expensive Picassos and Chagalls and all that,” Couples said. “I don’t have any paintings of (Picasso’s), I have sketches. I don’t have an original.

“I just like buying one (piece of original artwork) a year. It used to be cars.”

• Sitting with Matt Kuchar, who had just won his Memorial Tournament on Sunday, 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus explained why he liked to go to major championship sites to practice the week before the event.

Kuchar went to Merion this week, the first time he’s gone early to a major site, other than the Masters. Kuchar listened attentively to Nicklaus, who said he did it primarily to get rid of pre-tournament nerves.

“I would go there to get rid of my nervousness, worrying about the rough or about the narrowness of fairways, worrying about the speed of the greens, firmness of the greens, and just being the U.S. Open,” Nicklaus said. “I’d spend a few days until I was comfortable with the golf course and comfortable with what I was doing.

“And then I would go home and get everything out of my mind, enjoy my weekend, and then I would go back and all I had to worry about then was my playing the event. … U.S. Open or British or Masters, I always want to play three or four, five practice rounds beforehand to make sure everything else was out of the way and all I had to do was concentrate on golf.”

• Davis Love III will be an assistant to captain Fred Couples during the Presidents Cup matches in October at Muirfield Village, joining Jay Haas on the staff.

Love, who captained the U.S. Ryder Cup last fall, said he’d “love” to be a future Presidents Cup captain. Couples has offered Bobcats owner Michael Jordan an assistant captain spot but has not received a final answer.

Ron Green Jr. is senior writer for Global Golf Post (www.globalgolfpost.com) and a contributor to the Charlotte Observer. He can be reached at rongreenjr@gmail.com.
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