DALLAS _ Dallas teen Jordan Spieth left last year’s U.S. Open with a medal for posting the lowest score of any amateur competitor.
Spieth, 19, will return this year in search of a paycheck in his rookie season as a PGA Tour participant. He made sure of that by taking birdies on three of his final four holes to share medalist honors with Matt Weibring and Ed Loar, at 8-under-par, in Monday’s sectional qualifier at Lakewood Country Club.
But the story of the day proved to be the playoff that would not end between two players with Tarrant County connections.
Zack Fischer, a former UTA golfer, matched scores with Colleyville resident Ryan Palmer, a three-event winner on the PGA Tour, for eight consecutive holes in a sudden-death playoff to determine the fourth and final player from the Dallas qualifier to secure a berth in the U.S. Open field, June 13-16 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.
Both players took matching pars on the 18th green before play was suspended because of darkness at 8:57 p.m. The golfers will resume their sudden-death playoff at 7:30 a.m. today on the 10th tee.
Asked what he used to read a 5-foot par putt that dropped on his final stroke of the day, Fischer said: “Memory. I couldn’t see. I got down there to look and said, ‘Why am I even down here? I can’t see anything.’”
But he made the putt, followed by Palmer’s tap-in par to apply the overnight brakes to a sudden-death playoff that has included seven pars and one birdie. So far. There will be at least one more hole today, with golfers alternating between the 10th and 18th holes until someone posts a better score to secure a berth at Merion.
Palmer, 36, is seeking to earn his fourth career berth in the U.S. Open. Fischer hopes to make a statement for his school. No UTA golfer has ever played in one of golf’s major championships. Fischer, 23, became the first former UTA player to make the cut in a PGA Tour event at last month’s HP Byron Nelson Championship. He embraces today’s opportunity.
“It would be amazing,” Fisher said, when asked what it would mean to land an Open berth. “It’s fun. It’s just exhausting ... I’ve been playing tournament golf since I was six and I’ve never had a sudden-death playoff where I had to come back the next morning.”
Now, he does. So does Palmer, a former Texas A&M golfer.
Spieth, meanwhile, secured his second consecutive Open berth with matching rounds of 67-67. Spieth, who finished in a tie for seventh at last month’s Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, said his late birdie barrage was the product of crisp ball-striking. His longest of four back-nine birdies in his second round traveled only 8 feet.
“I’m excited to play in another U.S. Open,” Spieth said. “Once I made a couple of birdies, it got easier to get on a run on the back nine.”
_ Jimmy Burch