Notebook: Already, bubble to get into British Open has plenty of occupants

Jimmy Walker
Getty Images
Jimmy Walker is among the PGA Tour players who have three weeks to crack the top 20 in the FedExCup standings for a chance to get an exemption into the British Open.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

ARDMORE, Pa. -- Jimmy Walker, who narrowly missed out getting into the top 60 in the world for an exemption to the U.S. Open, is on another bubble again. 

Walker is among those who have three weeks to crack the top 20 in the FedExCup for a chance to get an exemption into the British Open. Walker is at No. 21. After the Greenbrier Classic, the leading five players -- not already exempt -- from the top 20 in the FedEx Cup will earn a spot at Muirfield. 

Colonial winner Boo Weekley is at No. 8 and would appear to be safe. The other players inside the top 20 and not yet in the British Open field are Charles Howell III (No. 14), Sony Open winner Russell Henley (No. 15) and St. Jude winner Harris English (No. 17). 

Right behind Walker are Byron Nelson winner Sang-Moon Bae, Scott Stallings and Martin Laird of Scotland. 

The only other way for a PGA Tour player to earn a spot into the British Open would be to win the John Deere Classic, which is held the week before the Open. 

MEMORABLE SECONDS: The U.S. Open has been held five times at Merion, and already four players who were runner-up are in the Hall of Fame -- Gene Sarazen (1934), Lloyd Mangrum (1950), Jack Nicklaus (1971) and Phil Mickelson (2013). 

Sometimes it's the strength of the leaderboard -- not necessarily the winner -- that shows what kind of championship test a course provides. Merion passes both tests. Of its five U.S. Open champions, all are multiple major champions except for Justin Rose, who won his first one Sunday at age 32. 

Merion might not have the best list of second-place finishers for a U.S. Open. 

Oakmont has held the U.S. Open eight times and its runners-up include Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk (2007), Colin Montgomerie (1994), Tom Watson (1983), Arnold Palmer (1962) and Sam Snead (1953). 

The strongest list would have to go to Olympic Club in San Francisco, however. That list features Hogan, Palmer, Watson, Payne Stewart and Graeme McDowell. 

TIGER CHANCES: Tiger Woods has now played 16 majors since he last won the 2008 U.S. Open, so he remains four short of matching the record of Jack Nicklaus. Can he do it? Padraig Harrington says there is "no question about it." 

"He only needs to win four more. He's got plenty of years," Harrington said. "The weeks he plays well, he wins. Not too many guys can say, `Well, if I play well, I'm winning.' All he has to do is pick the right week. Clearly, he's not as good as he was in the past, but he's going to hit the right week enough times to win four more majors." 

Woods has picked the wrong week so far. He has four wins on the PGA Tour. 

"That's irrelevant," Harrington said. "He's going to hit the right week eventually." 

NOT AS EASY AS 1-2-3: Being part of the U.S. Open's grouping of the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 players draws a big gallery to watch some ordinary golf. 

Merion was the fourth time the USGA went with the 1-2-3 pairing, and the second straight time that none of the three broke par while playing together. In fact, Tiger Woods (68 at Torrey Pines), Lee Westwood (68 at Congressional) and Martin Kaymer (70 at Congressional) represent the only rounds under par. 

Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott were a collective 6-over at Torrey Pines in 2008. Westwood, Kaymer and Luke Donald were 7 over at Congressional in 2011. The worst was last year at Olympic Club, when Westwood, Donald and Rory McIlroy combined to go 26 over -- only Westwood made the cut. 

This year, Woods and McIlroy each shot 3 over, while Scott was at 7 over. 

RORY'S ESCORT: The police officer who got Rory McIlroy to the Ryder Cup on time for his singles match at Medinah is moving up. Pat Rollins, the deputy chief of the Lombard Police Department for the last 12 years, is taking over as police chief for the Sugar Grove Police Department. 

McIlroy was looking at the wrong time zone when he realized he was running an hour behind. Rollins got him to the Chicago-area golf course in an unmarked car, and McIlroy beat Keegan Bradley as Europe staged a record-tying rally to win. 

The car, meanwhile, was to be replaced this year. Instead, the village of Lombard put it up for auction on eBay. 

DIVOTS: According to the USGA, Billy Horschel hit all 18 greens in regulation in the second round. He hit 22 greens in regulation over the last two rounds combined. ... Steve Stricker and David Lingmerth were the only players to make par all four rounds on the 18th hole at Merion. ... The Web.com Tour has a new season-ending tournament starting in 2014, with Winco Foods signing a three-year deal as title sponsor of the Portland Open. It will be played Aug. 21-24 on the Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge. ... Louis Oosthuizen was at the U.S. Open for one day of competition, at least long enough to show off the new logo on his clothing. He is the latest to become a golf brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz, which also plans to support his junior golf academy in South Africa. ... Tiger Woods had a 293, which would have put him into a playoff at Merion with Olin Dutra for the 1934 U.S. Open. 

STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods has not broken 70 in his last 10 rounds, his longest such streak since July 2010. 

FINAL WORD: "It's not getting any easier as I get older." -- Steve Stricker, 46, on trying to win his first major championship.