DEAN Burmester booked his place at Pebble Beach after winning US Open Sectional Qualifying at Walton Heath – finishing four strokes ahead of Sam Horsfield.
The South African, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Sunday, opened with a round of 63, nine under par, which he followed with a round of 65. On the back nine of his second round, Burmester carded six birdies, including five in a row from the 12th to the 16th holes, to secure his second appearance at the US Open after 36-hole qualifying.
A delighted Burmester said: “I guess it’s just one of those days when you roll out of bed and the putts go in the hole. The nine-under was solid, I had a few bad shots but managed to get up and down and roll in the putts.
“I had a nervy start in the afternoon, one over through the first five, but then the momentum kicked in after rolling in a few and it was like how things were in the morning.
“It’s up there with playing in an Open at St Andrews, just because of where it is and the history. I’m excited to go out there and give it my best for four days.”
“Last year on the 18th at Shinnecock was amazing, and Tiger was at the back of that green and gave me a fist-pump, so that’s a memory I’ll always cherish – hopefully we can make some more at Pebble.”
Horsfield carded rounds of 67-65 to finish on 12-under par – two strokes ahead of Australian Marcus Fraser and Frenchman Clément Sordet, who birdied his last six holes to move up the leaderboard, sharing third place.
Marcus Kinhult, Matthieu Pavon and Lee Slattery were among the early finishers who secured their places on nine-under, while in a share of eighth place were six golfers including Belgium’s 2016 Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters, who birdied the last hole to move to eight-under to avoid a play-off, and New Zealand amateur Daniel Hillier.
A five-man play-off was required to determine who would take the 14th and final spot from the Surrey qualifier which was being staged for the 15th time since Kiwi Michael Campbell played his way into the US Open and actually won at Pinehurst as a 250-1 outsider.
Italy’s Renato Paratore defeated Austrian Bernd Wiesberger with a birdie on the second extra hole, while Spaniard Nacho Elvira earned the second alternate spot after also birdieing the second extra hole, defeating Andrea Pavan and Romain Wattel.
Fraser admitted the decison to travel to Walton Heath paid off, saying: “It was a long way to come over for this qualifier. I was first reserve for Made in Denmark and didn’t get in, I didn’t play great in Belgium and missed the cut. I didn’t play well today but the putter was as good as it’s ever been and that got me through.
“This will be my fourth US Open. At Pebble Beach it’ll be like the Open at St Andrews. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Sordet was equally happy after revealing he already has a victory to his name at the iconic Californian course where Tiger Woods spreadeagled the field in 2000 – finishing a record 15 shots ahead of the field, who failed to get under-par – and where Graeme McDowell won the US Open in 2010.
Sordet, a former Texas Tech player, said: “My caddie told me to stay patient on the 13th hole and take one shot at the time – and I ended up 10-under. It’s never over until you make the last putt.
“I’ve played around 15 rounds at Pebble Beach because I played there a bit when I was at college at Texas Tech. I actually won my first college event there, so I have pretty good memories and I can’t wait to get back there.”
Paratore, who has so far had to settle for familiarising himself with Pebble Beach on his computer games, said: “I am really happy, I really wanted to qualify and to achieve it is beautiful. With five people in a play-off, I felt as though I had to birdie the first hole or go home.
“I’ll prepare for it like any other tournament. I’ll probably go over on the Sunday to help with the jetlag. Now I’ll go home, rest, practice and make sure I’m ready.
“I’ve only played Pebble Beach on my PlayStation, now fortunately I can play there.”