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Faldo puts pride aside to qualify

Published June 10, 2004

The idea of Nick Faldo playing beside some guy named Mo is what U.S. Open qualifying is all about. Stars are paired with nobodies. Guys who have fulfilled many dreams play with those who are simply dreamers.

That was the case Tuesday in Orlando, where Faldo, a six-time major championship winner, attempted to earn a spot in next week's U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. Playing alongside him was a guy named Mo Guttman.

"The bottom line is, if you want to win the U.S. Open you've got to go through this," said Faldo, 47, who took the high road despite a resume that suggests such an exercise was beneath him.

Faldo birdied the final hole in the 36-hole qualifier at Lake Nona, where the Englishman has his U.S. base. With his 5-under-par total, he earned one of three spots in the Open, the tournament in which he lost a playoff to Curtis Strange in 1988. It will be his 17th consecutive appearance.

Two years ago Faldo received a special exemption to play at Bethpage Black and took advantage with a fifth-place finish. He has been top-seven in two of the past four years.

"I think they should give me a lifetime exemption just for being a nice chap," Faldo said. "Seriously, I'm glad I did it for the experience."

Faldo, who has three victories at the Masters and three at the British Open, had not been through qualifying for any major championship since 1976, when he qualified for the British Open as a 19-year-old. He had never been through the 36-hole grind for the U.S. Open.

Of the 156 spots in the tournament, 80 were available through sectional qualifying at nine sites around the country. A good number of name players will be missing, including past major winners Mark O'Meara, Paul Azinger, Jeff Sluman and Tom Lehman.

Faldo, however, will be there.

"I'm very proud of what I've done," he said.

By the way, Guttman, who is from Sarasota, shot 87-83.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: The World Ranking has become a standard criteria for qualifying for the major championships. Clearwater's John Huston got the good and bad of the situation. The top 50 in the world ranking through May 24 were exempt for the British Open. Huston was 49th and qualified. But the U.S. Open deadline was a week later. Huston dropped to 51st and didn't get a spot in next week's tournament. Because of a foot injury Huston skipped U.S. Open qualifying.

But he is making the best of the situation. Huston, who turned 43 on June 1, will rest his ailing foot and prepare for the British Open. He plans to go to Scotland early with family members and play at St. Andrews and Carnoustie before the tournament at Royal Troon.

NO LONG JOHN: John Daly skipped U.S. Open qualifying, choosing to play in an outing Monday. "This fat boy doesn't walk 36 holes (in one day) anymore," Daly said. "I've been criticized about not qualifying, but I don't think I should have to." Daly said his victory and three other top-10 finishes this year should be enough to get him into the Open, though he does not think he should have received a special exemption. As for the Trim Spa logo on his shirt, Daly said, "I'm still the "before' picture, but I'm doing okay."

AROUND GOLF: Jack Nicklaus, 64, tied for 63rd at the Memorial and became the second-oldest player to make a cut on the PGA Tour. Sam Snead was 67 when he made the cut in several events in 1979. ... The cicadas were out in full force at the Memorial, and anyone who watched the telecast could hear the constant humming. Woody Camarolli, who caddied for Dudley Hart, bit on a $100 dare before the tournament and ate a cicada, but it was Hart who withdrew from the tournament after one round with food poisoning. ... Andy Bean's situation at the Champions Tour event in Michigan wasn't so amusing. The Lakeland resident was tied for the lead through two rounds but had an allergic reaction to something he ate at breakfast before the final round. It caused him to pass out on the driving range. Bean was taken to the hospital and was later released, but it was too late to play. ... Ben Curtis finished tied for eighth at the Memorial. It was just the second top-10 of his PGA Tour career, the other being his victory at last year's British Open.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

[Last modified June 9, 2004, 23:53:20]


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