This week’s qualifying rounds for the U.S. Open couldn’t have worked out much better for Chicago’s new Web.com Tour event, which begins its 72-hole run on Thursday at Ivanhoe Club.
Tournament director Scott Cassin made Nick Hardy, the University of Illinois sophomore from Northbrook, the last of his four sponsor exemptions into the Rust-Oleum Championship. Hardy then responded with another strong showing in U.S. Open sectional qualifying.
Hardy, as an Illini freshman, not only survived Open qualifying last year, but he also survived the 36-hole cut at Chambers Bay, in Washington. On Monday he was medalist in a sectional Springfield, Ohio, shooting 6-under-par 134 for his 36 holes. He’ll use the Rust-Oleum Championship as a strong tuneup for next week’s U.S. Open at Oakmont, in Pennsylvania.
“He’ll be the only amateur in our field, and he’s good enough to win this thing,’’ said Cassin. “It wouldn’t be the first time a college player has won on (the Web.com) tour.’’
Hardy’s addition means that all four sponsor’s exemptions into the Rust-Oleum tournament will be Chicago area players. Previously announced exemptions went to present Web.com Tour player Brad Hopfinger of Lake Forest; Deerfield’s Vince India, who played on the PGA Tour’s top developmental circuit last year; and Ivanhoe member Michael Schachner of Libertyville.
“We had targeted the fourth exemption to a player who wound up getting into the PGA Tour event in Memphis,’’ said Cassin, “so that freed up another spot, which we gave to Nick.’’
The 156-man field for the $600,000 shootout will also include Brian Campbell, a Web.com Tour player who was an Illinois stalwart last year; and Brian Bullington, a University of Iowa product from Frankfort. Bullington was the only Illinois player among the 12 advancing through Monday’s two Rust-Oleum qualifying tournaments at Stonewall Orchard, in Grayslake, and Pine Meadow, in Mundelein. The Illinois PGA received 176 entries to the tourney qualifier, necessitating the need to use two sites.
The Web.com Tour regulars competing at Ivanhoe won’t include leading money winner Wesley Bryan, who accepted a sponsor’s exemption to the PGA stop in Memphis, but Dominic Bozzelli – run-away champion at last week’s Web.com event in the Dominican Republic – will try to keep his hot streak going at Ivanhoe.
On to Oakmont
The Chicago area is enjoying one of its best years ever in U.S. Open sectional qualifying. Hardy did the best at all the qualifying sites and his Illini teammate, Charlie Danielson, also got through the Springfield, Ohio, sectional. He did it by beating PGA Tour player Tony Finau in a playoff for the last of four available berths at Oakmont offered there.
Kevin Streelman and Luke Donald, Chicago’s most prominent PGA Tour players, both got through the sectional at Powell, Ohio, after playing for four days in the nearby Memorial tournament. Streelman tied for fifth in that sectional and Donald tied for ninth before coming back on Tuesday morning to survive a six-man playoff for the last five Open berths on the line in that elimination.
Glen Ellyn’s Andy Pope, who has been a regular on the Web.com Tour but won’t be playing at Ivanhoe, tied for third in a sectional at Summit, N.J. Like Hardy Pope also survived sectional qualifying in 2015 and went on to make the cut in the Open proper.
Here and there
The Radix Cup matches, pitting 12-player teams from the Illinois PGA and the Chicago District Golf Association, will be held for the 55th time on Wednesday. The pros have a 34-18-2 edge in the series but the amateurs have won nine of the last 15 meetings.
Six top collegiate players, headed by Danielson and recently-crowned NCAA champion Aaron Wise of team titlist Oregon, have been given sponsor’s exemptions into the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic. Others are Jon Rahm, of Arizona State; Beau Hossler Texas; Lee McCoy, Georgia; and Jordan Niebrugge, Oklahoma State. The JDC will move off its usual July dates and be played Aug, 8-14 opposite the Olympic Games golf event in Brazil.
Jeff Sluman, the Champions Tour veteran from Hinsdale, has joined the staff of California-based Blast Motion — an industry innovator focusing on elevating player performance with its swing and stroke analysis technologies.
The eight countries qualified for next month’s UL International Crown team event at the Merit Club will announce their four-player rosters on Monday following the conclusion of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Washington.
The first of seven statewide qualifiers for the Illinois Open will be held Wednesday at Maple Meadows in Addison.