It has earned the moniker “Golf’s Longest Day” for a reason.
U.S. Open sectional qualifying is 36 holes of grueling,
pressure-packed competition with only a handful of available spots into the championship
It’s as arduous as it is agonizing.
But Zack Fischer and Ryan Palmer added a new level to the proceedings
when they dueled for the fourth and final qualifying spot among 68 players at
Lakewood Country Club in Dallas on June 3 – and June 4.
In what is believed to be the longest playoff in U.S. Open
sectional qualifying history, Fischer, who turned pro in 2011 and primarily
competes on mini-tours, outlasted Palmer, a three-time PGA Tour winner, in an
epic 12-hole playoff.
The playoff was suspended after eight holes on Monday
because of darkness, and Fischer finally prevailed with a birdie on the fourth hole
of the morning, the par-4 18th.
Fischer, 23, of Wake Village, Texas, went from an obscure
professional to a media darling. Dozens of interview requests piled in as if
he’d just won the Texas Lottery.
“I’m not a huge talk-on-the-phone kind of guy, but it’s been
good just getting my name out there,” said Fischer, who played collegiately at
the University of Texas at Arlington, where he was an All-Southland Conference
performer. “No longer am I the guy in the orange shirt in the playoff. People
sort of know me now as Zack Fischer.”
Fischer nearly missed out on his newfound notoriety. With
six holes remaining, he stood at four under par following a pair of bogeys.
Figuring seven under might be the target score, Fischer calmly gathered himself
and holed a 25-foot, right-to-left putt for birdie on his 31st hole. He
followed with a 6-footer for birdie on the next hole to reach six under. Still
at six under on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, Fischer found the top of a
greenside bunker with his second shot. He blasted to 10 feet and made the
Palmer, playing a group behind him, also birdied his final
hole to tie him at 7-under 135 to force the playoff.
“When I found out I was in a playoff, I wasn’t crazy
nervous,” said Fischer. “I knew I had to hit good shots, but I really felt like
it was my time.”
He just didn’t realize how much time it would take.
On the seventh playoff hole, Fischer missed a 12-footer and
thought his day was over. Palmer, however, failed to connect on his 6-foot
“When I looked up and didn’t hear anyone cheering, I knew he
had missed,” said Fischer.
Darkness eventually forced the proceedings to Tuesday morning,
where Fischer made a jaw-dropping 25-foot par putt with 12 feet of break on the
10th playoff hole to stay in it. He finally sealed his spot at Merion with a
birdie two holes later.
“This definitely goes down in the memory books,” said Palmer,
who would eventually get into the U.S. Open as well when an alternate spot
became available six days later.
Neither player made the cut at Merion Golf Club; Palmer shot
75-79 and Fischer 82-76.
it was a week Fischer will never forget.