|Davis Love III was the big draw at Monday's U.S. Open qualifier in Ohio. (JOE SKIPPER/Reuters file photo)
COLUMBUS - Charlie Wi may have won medallist honours at Monday's U.S. Open qualifier here, but he wasn't the main draw by a long shot.
Wi fired a great nine-under par during the 36-hole qualifier on Open-like setups at Scioto Country Club and Ohio State University Scarlet courses, besting the next player, Blake Adams, by three shots.
But it was Davis Love III -- the beloved 48-year old from Georgia who will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup squad this September -- who garnered the most attention in claiming one of the 16 spots up for grabs in a qualifier with a field that would rival some lesser PGA Tour events.
The veteran fired a three-under par 68 at the tough Ohio State course in the morning and then held on with a one-over-par 71 in the afternoon at Scioto, a classic course on which Jack Nicklaus cut his teeth.
True to United States Golf Association standards -- which took a bit of a beating last year in a U.S. Open that some felt wasn't tough enough at Congressional Country Club -- par was a decent score for the Ohio qualifier.
In fact, anybody in red numbers booked a ticket to the Open, while four players tied at even par -- Dennis Miller, Morgan Hoffman, Scott Piercy and Justin Hicks -- played off for three spots.
It was almost sweet redemption for Love, who last year at Congressional three-putted the final hole to finish in a tie for 11th. A top-10 would have given him an exemption into this year's Open.
"Last year, I felt like I hit the ball well enough at the British and the U.S. (Opens) to win," said Love, who has made 22 U.S. Open appearances and has five top-10 finishes, including a tie for second in 1996. "I definitely want to play."
The conditions were tough but Love said that's what you need in preparation for the U.S. Open.
"I said you could've had the U.S. Open at either one of these courses today," he said. "You couldn't hit the green at 8, 9 (at Scioto). It's almost impossible to hit the green at that downhill par three on the front. We were just hitting moonballs trying to land it on the front and keep it on the green."
But the 36-hole qualifying, which keeps competitors and fans in the dark in terms of scoring until updates after every nine holes, suits Love, the 1997 PGA Championship winner, just fine.
"I seem to do well at the qualifying because I don't have a scoreboard to look at. I seem to focus better," Love said. "I did a really nice job the last four or five holes with concentrating. And that gets you ready for a U.S. Open ... hopefully."
Wi certainly looked ready, firing rounds of 65 at the par-71 OSU course and 67 at the par-70 Scioto.
Kevin Streelman went out in 30 at OSU en route to a four-under finish in a tie for third with Brian Harman. Streelman missed the cut at the Memorial and spent Saturday and Sunday resting, which he said was good preparation for a grueling test.
"I'm a fan (of the 36-hole qualifying) in regards that you have to stay patient," Streelman said. "That's more mental than it really is your golf game."
Streelman had been coming off a long stretch of golfing and some rest and good play were just what he needed.
"I played pretty good at the British Open qualifier, too, and I just missed there," Streelman said. "And I missed the cut at Colonial and Memorial, barely. So I didn't want to go home missing all four of these, so to get in the Open is a great feeling."
Streelman's expecting a pretty good test in next week at Olympic Club (June 14-17).
"It's really tough," he said of Olympic. "And especially after what Rory (McIlroy) did last year I bet (the USGA) is going to make it crazy...
"But I like that."