More than 10 percent of the 2018 U.S. Open field will have ties to Georgia, with 16 players who either live in the state, are from Georgia or attended college in the state will be among the 156-player field.
Five of the players made it into the Open field in qualifying, including current Georgia Tech golfer Tyler Strafaci, recent Tech grads Ollie Schniederjans and Richy Werenski and former Tech standout Roberto Castro, who grew up in the Atlanta area as did Schniederjans. The fifth Georgia qualifier is Atlanta resident Michael Hebert, like Castro a member of the 2018 Web.com Tour.
Leading the Georgia contingent in the field for 2018 U.S. Open, which will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island is Masters champion Patrick Reed, who led Augusta State to consecutive NCAA Championships in 2010 and ’11.
Reed is currently sixth in the FedExCup standings and 13th in the Official World Golf Rankings, with his Masters victory part of a stretch of six straight top 10s beginning with a tie for second in Tampa and ending with a T8 in Charlotte. He ranks fourth on tour in strokes gained around the greens, which should be a positive asset at Shinnecock. He has finished in the top 15 in two of the last three U.S. Opens.
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson has wins this year in Los Angeles and the WGC Match Play Championship, and is ninth in points and 19th in the OWGR. The former Georgia Bulldog ranks as one of the best drivers in the game, but is near the bottom of the around the green stats. He tied for seventh in his second U.S. Open start at Oakmont in 2007, but has only one top-30 finish since and has missed four of the last six cuts.
Like Watson, St. Simons Island resident Zach Johnson has won two majors – the 2007 Masters and 2015 British Open at St. Andrews. Somewhat surprisingly, Johnson’s U.S. Open record is less than stellar, with a tie for eighth at Oakmont in 2016 his only top 25 covering the last 14 Opens. He is currently is 59th in the OWGR and 63rd in the FedExCup, with a number of solid finishes this season but not much since a T5 in the Texas Open.
Matt Kuchar has an expectedly consistent record in the Open, making the cut each of the last eight years and finishing 28th or better seven times in that span, including T16 last year. His best finish was T6 at Pebble Beach in 2010. The former Georgia Tech star and St. Simons resident has not played as well this season, with just two top 10s in stroke play events and no finish higher than fifth. He stands 25th in the OWGR and an uncharacteristic 61st on FEC points list.
Former Georgia Bulldog Kevin Kisner got off to a strong start last fall, but since a loss to Watson in the Match Play finals hasn’t been heard from other than a T7 in Hilton Head, as his stats are lousy other than putting. His U.S. Open record isn’t great (T12 in 2015 at Chambers Bay is his best in four starts) but is getting a reputation as a big-event player. Current rankings are 30 (OWGR) and 40 (FEC).
Fellow ex-Bulldog Brian Harman, a native of Savannah who is living on St. Simons Island, is also emerging as a major player after his runner-up showing in last year’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills. He missed the cut in his first two starts. He began 2017-18 season with five straight top 10s and added two more in two WGC events this year, but slumped a bit until recent T14 at Colonial. One of the game’s best putters, is 23 in points this season and OWGR is 28.
Macon native Russell Henley, one of four ex-Bulldogs in the field, is not having a very successful season (90th in FEC points), mostly due to a shaky short game, A tie for eighth in Houston is his only top 10, and he was T15 at Pebble Beach and Augusta. Henley is 90th on the points list (OWGR of 58) after qualifying for Tour Championship at East Lake last year. He tied for 16th in 2010 Open while still a student in Athens, but a T27 last year was his best finish since.
Augusta native Charles Howell has played in the Open just once since 2007, but is back in the field after narrowly breaking into the top 60 in the OWGR at the qualifying deadline (He’s currently 60th). Previously had made eight straight U.S. Open starts, but has had problems getting into any major other than the PGA over the past decade. Continues to play consistently in non-majors, ranking 36th in the FedExCup with 11 top 25s this season, but a T6 in San Diego is his best showing in 2018. Only top 10 in 42 career starts in majors is a T10 in 2003 PGA.
Luke List, who grew up in north Georgia, is experiencing a breakout year, standing ninth on the points list and reaching 52 in the OWGR. List qualified for the U.S. Open three times between 2003 and ’07, the first two as an amateur, but did not play in another major until last year’s PGA. List has contended several times this season, with his tee to green stats among the best on tour, beginning with his status as one of the game’s longest hitters.
Chesson Hadley qualified by the slimmest of margins, moving up from 62 the week before the deadline to 60 despite not playing that week. Former Georgia Tech golfer is currently is 62nd. Hadley is enjoying an outstanding season in his return to the PGA Tour, standing 16 on the points list with six top 10s and seven straight top-20 finishes before the streak was broken last week at Memorial. This will be his U.S. Open debut and just his fourth career start in a major, his first since 2015.
St. Simons resident Trey Mullinax, a member of Alabama’s back-to-back national championship teams several years back, made a memorable major debut last year with a T9 finish at Erin Hills to earn a return invitation. Does not have full PGA Tour status, but has played well enough to stand 81st in the FedExCup, largely due to a tie for second in the Texas Open. Leads the tour in driving distance with an average of 319 yards, but has missed three of his last four cuts and is just 187 in OWGR.
Ollie Schniederjans is one of five golfers with Georgia ties (four of them current or former Yellow Jackets) to qualify earlier this week, and will be making his first major start as a pro. As an amateur, Schniederjans tied for 42nd at Olympic Club in 2012 and was T12 later that summer in the British Open just prior to turning pro. After almost winning in Greensboro as a rookie last year, has had a somewhat disappointing sophomore season, standing 75th on the points list with two top 10s – a T7 in Hawaii and T3 in Phoenix early in 2018. Has made his last nine cuts in a row, but has not placed higher than 34th, mainly the result of struggles off the tee.
Richy Werenski, Schniederjans’ teammate at Tech, has struggled even more this season, and is 143 in the FedExCup and 304 in the OWGR with some really shaky stats across the board. Only finishes of note are a T11 in Texas and T23 in the Players. He’s making his major debut at Shinnecock.
Current Georgia Tech golfer Tyler Strafaci is the lone amateur among the Georgia contingent, joining Werenski in advancing from a qualifier in Florida. Strafaci is one of at least 19 amateurs who will compete in the U.S. Open, most of them college golfers.
Atlanta resident Roberto Castro is one of six Yellow Jackets in the field, and will be looking to make the cut at Shinnecock for the first time in his fifth career start in the Open. Castro, a member of the PGA Tour from 2012-17, is back on the Web.com Tour this year, but is in position to return to golf’s major leagues later in 2018., He is 13th on the money list with four straight recent top 10s, beginning with a tie for second in Savannah, followed by a T14 in his most recent start. The Web.com Tour is off the week of the Open.
Also qualifying at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek was Michael Hebert, like Castro an Atlanta resident and Settindown Creek member. Hebert is enjoying his best of five seasons on the tour, currently standing 48th on the money list. This is his first appearance in a major and just his third start on the PGA Tour.
Among the Georgia golfers who did not qualify is St. Simons resident Patton Kizzire, who won twice on the PGA Tour last fall at the outset of the 2017-18 season and is seventh in the FedExCup standings.