U.S. Open qualifier opens in fog, ends in controversy at nightfall in England

nicolas colsaerts
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Nicolas Colsaerts avoided the drama at the end of the Walton Heath qualifier by posting the winning score of 135.
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PA Sport and Associated Press

Series:

Belgian golfer Nicolas Colsaerts led 11 players who earned spots in the U.S. Open in a qualifier for European Tour players that ended at dark -- much to the surprise of Richie Ramsay of Scotland.

Ramsay didn’t think his score of 4-under 140 at Walton Heath would be enough to qualify. Because of a three-hour fog delay on Monday, he wasn’t even sure the 36-hole qualifier would finish. Ramsay said some players were still teeing off at 5:30 p.m.

WALTON HEATH QUALIFIER

These 11 players qualified for the 2011 U.S. Open June 16-19 at Congressional.

Player

Score

1. Nicolas Colsaerts

64-71--135

2. Shane Lowry

69-67--136

2. Maarten Lafeber

73-63--136

4. Thomas Levet

66-71--137

5. Robert Rock

70 68--138

5. David Howell

72 66--138

7. Stephen Gallacher

70-69--139

7. Alexander Noren

67-72--139

7. Marcel Siem

67-72--139

7. Robert Dinwiddie

69 70--139

11. Johan Edfors

70-70--140

He tried to catch a flight to Belfast to attend a wedding reception of fellow player Gareth Maybin. Ramsay, a former U.S. Amateur champion, missed his flight, and then was told to rush back to the course for a playoff among three players. Stuck in traffic, he didn’t arrive until the playoff was over.

Turns out there was just enough light left to play at least one hole, so a par 3 was used. Johan Edfors of Sweden, in what was supposed to be a three-for-one playoff, made par to earn the last spot over Andreas Harto of Denmark.

“I actually feel physically sick,” Ramsay said. “I can’t believe they played when it was pitch dark. It’s not up to me to say it’s right or wrong, but it’s just been an horrific day -- just an awful, awful day.”

Ramsay will be an alternate, with little hope of getting into the U.S. Open, to be played from June 16-19 at Congressional.

Colsaerts easily qualified along with Edfors, Shane Lowry, Maarten Lafeber, Thomas Levet, Robert Rock, David Howell, Stephen Gallacher, Alexander Noren, Marcel Siem and Robert Dinwiddie.

Colin Montgomerie, a runner-up to Ernie Els when the U.S. Open was last held at Congressional in 1997, failed to qualify. Also missing out was Ross Fisher, the only member of the last Ryder Cup team who still has not qualified for the U.S. Open.

Fisher is No. 52 in the world and can get in if he cracks the top 50 in the final ranking published before the championship.

After the fog delay, the expectations all day Monday were that a playoff would take place Tuesday morning because of the time lost, but when the last group finished officials saw the opportunity to get at least one extra hole in.

Edfors and Harto were understandably keen, especially knowing that Ramsay was likely to be absent, and with the hole being switched from a par 4 to a par 3 to speed things up, Harto lost when he failed to get up and down from a bunker.

Montgomerie, last year's Ryder Cup captain, will return to Congressional, but only as a TV commentator after rounds of 72 and 73 proved five strokes too many.

"If you don't enter you can't win -- I gave it a go," said Montgomerie, who had high hopes following his seventh place at the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday, his first top-10 for almost three years. "That's hard work -- it was miserable out there."

Still in with a chance at level par with two par 5s to come, Montgomerie, back up from 462nd in the world to 305th, failed to birdie either the 14th and 16th and in between had one of seven three-putts during the day.