Monday in the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier at Woodmont Country Club, no player demonstrated the difference between the North and South courses better than Ryan Sullivan.
After lighting up the South with an 8-under 61 in the morning, the 24-year-old mini-tour player shot a 1-over 73 on the North. His 134 total was good enough. He was one of eight who qualified for the 113th U.S. Open, which takes place June 13-16 at Merion Golf Club in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
"I've been staying away from the women and working on my golf game," Sullivan joked. "It was a long day -- pretty exhausting."
Other qualifiers at Woodmont included the international trio of Adam Hadwin (132) of Canada, Russell Knox (132) of Scotland and Matt Goggin (135) of Australia, along with a pair of former Michigan State roommates now on the Web.com Tour -- 26-year-old Randall Hutchinson (132) of Traverse City, Mich., and 29-year-old Matt Harmon (135) of Grand Rapids, Mich. Joining them will be PGA Tour veterans Cliff Kresge (135) and Matt Bettencourt (136), who emerged in a three-for-one playoff.
Local favorite Fred Funk (138), who will turn 57 on June 14, came up two strokes short of a playoff in his attempt to make it to the Open for the 23rd time. He soon will turn over his hopes to son Taylor, a rising high school senior who came up two strokes shy in local qualifying last month.
Michael Putnam, who won Sunday at nearby TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, withdrew from the qualifier, citing a back injury.
The heartbreak story at Woodmont was the tale of Web.com Tour player Sam Saunders (136), who lost in a three-for-one playoff. Saunders, the 25-year-old grandson of Arnold Palmer, would have qualified had he not made a terrible blunder -- whiffing a 4-inch putt.
"He made one little mental mistake on a little putt," said playing partner Funk. "Other than that, he just played wonderful. I love his game. The world's at his feet in the golf world."
Saunders, a Web.com Tour player, made it to the Open two years ago at Congressional.
Sullivan had one of the more interesting days at Woodmont. He opened with bogeys on two of the first three holes and finished with bogeys on three of the last four. In between, however, he was brilliant.
"It was kind of a sick feeling," Sullivan said of his shaky start. "To even make pars on that course, you kind of feel like you're losing strokes to the field. I just kept telling myself, it's a long day."
The former UNC Wilmington star shot a 27 on the final nine at the South Course, which included a chip-in eagle on the par-five 18th. Sullivan, 24, who missed the cut at the Mid-Atlantic Championship, made 6-footers for birdie on No. 10 and 11. Using his belly putter, which will soon be outlawed, Sullivan added birdie putts of 30 and 25 feet, including one that splashed into a water-filled hole.
"When I get in a zone like that, the hole gets bigger and it gets really fun," Sullivan said. "It came at a perfect time. This is a big stage."