Golfers with local ties will play in next week’s U.S. Open. Here’s who’s teeing off

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A quartet of golfers with ties to local cities or schools — including a former champion — will play at next week’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.

The Star breaks down who those golfers are how they qualified as they await teeing off for their opening rounds Thursday morning.

Gary Woodland

This short-list’s most well-known name to Kansas City golf fans, Woodland — born in Topeka and a former Kansas Jayhawk — returns to the event where he notched his most famous win. In the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Woodland won his first and so far only major title by three strokes over two-time defending winner Brooks Koepka, propelled by a stretch of 34 straight holes without a bogey. That win qualified him as an exception to this year’s event.

Woodland missed the cut in the following year’s event at Winged Foot, but recently he has seemed to find his game at times. He has three top-15 finishes within the last two months, including fifth place at last month’s Wells Fargo Championship. But he’s also missed the cut twice in that time frame.

Woodland is strong off the tee (his 310.6 average driving distance ranks 10th on the PGA Tour), so Torrey Pines may suit him: the course features 11 holes with distances greater than 400 yards.

Peter Malnati

One of two University of Missouri alums in the field, Malnati punched his ticket to Torrey Pines via a playoff win in a qualfier earlier this week in Columbus, Ohio. In a five-way tie for 13th with four berths on the line (the top 16 players advanced), Malnati buried a birdie on the par-4 No. 10 at Brookside Country Club to secure a U.S. Open spot for the first time.

Malnati played for the Tigers from 2005-09 and has one win on the PGA Tour, the 2015 Sanderson Farms Championship. An elite putter who rarely wastes strokes on the green (his 1.71 putting average is third on tour), Malnati has already played at Torrey Pines once this year, finishing 10th with a four-day score of 7-under 281 at the Farmers Insurance Open in January.

It was his first time making the cut at the course after four failed attempts, meaning January’s result will be either a one-off or the start of a streak for Malnati in San Diego.

Hayden Buckley

The other former Tiger to qualify, having played in Columbia from 2014-18, is Buckley. His qualifying round went much more smoothly than Malnati’s — he placed second at Piedmont Driving Club in Atlanta. It’ll be the first major of Buckley’s career and a crowning moment in an already-career-best season: He scored his first win as a pro in February at the Korn Ferry Tour’s LECOM Suncoast Classic.

Buckley is gunning to become a member of “The 25”: Each year, the top 25 money earners on the Korn Ferry minor-league circuit earn PGA Tour cards for the subsequent season. Buckley currently sits 34th, and making the cut at Torrey Pines would likely rocket him up the list. He’s one of the Korn Ferry Tour’s best drivers this season, ranking third on tour when taking into account his distance and accuracy ranks.

Also in the field at Torrey Pines, by the way, is Cameron Young, the Wake Forest product who last month won the Korn Ferry Tour’s AdventHealth Championship at Blue Hills Country Club.

Chez Reavie

Reavie, born in Wichita, made the field by tying for the lowest score at the Columbus qualifier with a 12-under over two rounds.

He was right on Woodland’s heels during the latter’s 2019 U.S. Open title run, tying for third (7-under 277) as part of a strong Kansas contingent atop the leaderboard. That finish was the best of Reavie’s career in a major and remains the only time he’s finished in the top 10 at a major.

Reavie has made the cut four times in eight tries in various events at Torrey Pines, with an average finish of 46.3 when he made it to the weekend. He’s an accurate driver who’s hit just less than 70% of his fairways this year, but that hasn’t produced the results he’d like: Reavie’s missed the cut in seven straight tourneys as of this week.