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Play suspended in US Open Qualifiers

While 184 players were competing for 33 spots in the U.S. Open, the United States Golf Association was left to face a lot of caustic comments.

With a cumbersome field that included dozens of Tour players fighting for limited spots in the Columbus sectional, the pace of play was glacial as officials tried to complete the 36-hole qualifier.

``The USGA needs to apologize to the people of the section here in Columbus for putting 184 people at one site,'' said Tom Pernice Jr., who qualified for the Open with a score of 10-under in rounds at The Lakes and Brookside Country Clubs on Monday. ``You've got some sites with 20 or 16 people. You'd think the USGA would know better, but obviously they don't.''

The field teed off in threesomes at 7:30 a.m., going off both the first and 10th tees at both courses. The last few groups scrambled to finish as darkness fell. Everyone completed play, but 10 players must return Tuesday morning to participate in a playoff for the final seven qualifying spots.

Jesper Parnevik, who failed to qualify with a pair of 2-under 70s, said three groups were backed up on his second hole of the day -- with 34 more holes to play.

The USGA acknowledged that it put too many players in the Columbus sectional, one of eight played around the country on Monday. There were five sectionals scheduled for Tuesday.

``I agree it's too many,'' said USGA site official Jeff Hall. ``We've already had a discussion -- it won't help us this year -- assuring that it doesn't present this type of problem in the future.''

Hall said the problem stemmed from the large contingent of pros, competing one day after the final round of the Memorial Tournament, and locally exempt players competing for spots. The USGA permits those applying to qualify for the Open to specify where they wish to play.

``They know where most of the spots are,'' Hall said. ``They're chasing the spots.''

South African Tim Clark was the medalist at the Columbus sectional with a 67 at Brookside and a 62 at The Lakes. Among those also qualifying were Duffy Waldorf, Chris Smith, Jeff Maggert, Aaron Baddeley, Mark Calcavecchia, Rory Sabbatini and Wake Forest senior Bill Haas, who will join his father, Jay Haas, at Shinnecock Hills in New York next week.

Among those failing to qualify were Mark O'Meara, who won the Masters and British Open in 1998, Paul Azinger, Robert Gamez, Frank Lickliter II, Scott McCarron and Tom Lehman.

``The last time I had to qualify was in 1992,'' said Lehman, who won the British Open in 1996. ``One of the other guys qualifying that year was Greg Norman. I remember asking 'How could the best player in the world have to go through qualifying?' I'm far from the best player in the world right now.''

At qualifying in Summit, N.J., David Morland IV and J.P. Hayes shared medal honors at 8-under-par 134 at Canoe Brook Country Club. A field of 138 golfers competed for 22 spots.

Also qualifying were touring pros Dudley Hart, Dennis Paulson and Tom Carter. Kevin Stadler, the son of Craig Stadler, also earned a spot, as did 1996 PGA champion Mark Brooks.

A 10-man playoff to decide the last qualifier was suspended after four holes with five players left.

In Littleton, Colo., John Douma qualified for his second Open, and Steve Gotsche of Great Bend, Kan. earned a spot in his ninth Open.

In Barrington, Ill., Tour pro Carl Paulson shared medal honors with Robert Garrigus, finishing at 3-under 141 at Wynstone Golf Club.

Of the 72 golfers competing in Daly City, Calif., the four qualifiers were Roger Tambellini, Leif Olson, amateur Spencer Levin and David Carr.

In Rockville, Md., 74 golfers played for five qualifying spots. Paraguay's Carlos Franco was the medalist, qualifying along with Joey Sindelar, Omar Uresti, Bubba Watson and Pat Perez.

Amateur Oscar Alvarez was the lone qualifier among 21 players at the Sunriver, Ore., sectional.

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