The most prominent name among the group is former world number one Luke Donald, who despite a stellar career, has yet to win a major championship. His lack of length will be an issue at Oakmont, especially since he's currently 159th in driving distance and 174th in driving accuracy. It's no mystery as to why he's fallen off the elite list of golfers. For him to have a chance in the Open he will have to regain a form we haven't seen in several years.
The next most compelling qualifier is Dyson DeChambeau, last year's United States Amateur champion who by turning pro after the Masters, gave up his US Open exemption. In order to cash in on that exemption, he would have had to maintain his amateur status. By finishing second in the brutal sectional that included a plethora of PGA Tour players that remained in Ohio following the Memorial, he regained his chance to compete for a US Open title. After a promising start to his pro career with a fourth place finish at the RBC Heritage, DeChambeau missed four consecutive cuts, but seemed to regain his footing in Columbus, finishing a respectable 38th despite a closing 73. He's young, he's different and he has game. If he gets in contention on Sunday, look for a lot of coverage as he makes the turn home.
Forty nine year old David Toms made it through qualifying as well. The 2001 PGA champion's primary weapon at Oakmont will be his driving accuracy, enabling him to miss the 180 or more bunkers and stay out of what is sure to be deep and punishing rough. While his sights are probably set more on the Champions Tour, which he will qualify for next year, he's managed to collect three top ten finishes the last couple of seasons. His lack of length off the tee will most likely make it difficult for him to contend. But he's a good guy who will have a lot of fan support if he manages to get into the mix on Sunday afternoon.
A few other prominent touring pros came out of the sectionals, but none excite me as far as their chances at Oakmont. JJ Henry, Spencer Levin, DJ Trahan, Brendan Steele and Kevin Streelman, while solid players, don't tend to exhibit the qualities that would make me think they can break through with a major championship, especially at this year's venue. So we'll probably need to look farther up the field to find true contenders, whether darkhorses or favorites. My next installment of the Countdown to Oakmont will break down the players I think have a real chance to make a run as the sun sets on June 19.