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Goosen must likely qualify to return to Shinnecock for Open

(AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

By DOUG FERGUSON

AP Golf Writer

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) Retief Goosen one-putted the last six holes to win his second U.S. Open title at Shinnecock Hills in 2004. He has not been back to the storied club on Long Island since that day, and he probably won't go back unless he qualifies.

Goosen received a special exemption in 2016 for Oakmont. Chances of another one for this year's major are slim.

"We're begging them," the 49-year-old South African said with a soft laugh.

The U.S. Open historically is not overly generous with U.S. Open exemptions since 2000 when it gave one to 19-year-old Aaron Baddeley.

Besides, Goosen received one already, and compared with other two-time U.S. Open champions, that was enough. Curtis Strange, the last back-to-back U.S. Open champion, received only one exemption, to Pebble Beach in 2000 the year after his 10-year exemption ran out.

Lee Janzen won at Baltusrol in 1993 and Olympic Club in 1998. His next U.S. Open exemption will be his first.

Janzen, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour asked the USGA for one when the Open returned to Olympic Club in 2012. He still has the voicemail turning him down on one of his cellphones, though he can't figure out how to charge it if he wants to listen for posterity.

"They said it had been too long," Janzen said. "If I was ever going to get one, Olympic Club would have been reasonable. Since then, I figured I wasn't going to get one."

Janzen was 50 when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in 2015. He missed by four shots a year later, but he had such a negative experience at Chambers Bay he didn't bother going through qualifying for Erin Hills last year.

It could be worse. Consider the plight of two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North, who won his second U.S. Open in 1985 at Oakland Hills. The Open was supposed to go back to Oakland Hills in the final year of his 10-year exemption until it was moved to Shinnecock Hills for the 100-year anniversary of the USGA.

Oakland Hills was pushed one year. North asked for an exemption to the site of his second U.S. Open and never got one.

Ben Hogan received the first special exemption in 1966 to Olympic Club, where he lost an 18-hole playoff. Jack Nicklaus received eight U.S. Open exemptions; Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson each received five. Hale Irwin remains the only exemption to win the U.S. Open in 1990.

Ernie Els, is not exempt for the U.S. Open for the first time since 1992. He's due for one as a two-time U.S. Open winner, four-time major champion and already in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

As for Goosen, he says he'll go back to qualifying. He missed by one shot last year. That figures to be the only way he'll see Shinnecock Hills again.

RORY & PADRAIG: The Sunday Independent in Ireland brought together Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington - with seven majors between them - for a two-hour interview while at Pebble Beach. It's a fascinating read of two Irish players who think and operate entirely differently.

It also included one exchange in which Harrington offers a blunt view of McIlroy's career.

"I'm at a stage where I've done what I need to do," Harrington said. "You're at a stage, Rory, where you're still trying to get more. ... Actually, I'm going to say this, and it's probably not what you want to hear, but four majors for you is a failure."

McIlroy's response: "I 100 percent agree."

McIlroy lost a four-shot lead at the 2011 Masters. He hasn't won a major since the 2014 PGA Championship.

Harrington won his first major at Carnoustie in the 2007 British Open, where McIlroy was the low amateur and spent the last hour looking after Harrington's son (and conceding he was pulling for Sergio Garcia because they are closer in age). Harrington repeated as Open champion, and then won the 2008 PGA Championship.

"Three majors for me was an overachievement," Harrington said to McIlroy. "I love what I'm doing and I'd like to win another one, but I'm well aware that I'm not going to change my legacy at this stage. Whereas, you're still on that path."

MASTERS MEMORY: Patrick Cantlay might be among the few in golf who said someone "made me go to the Masters."

But there's a reason for that.

With a Masters berth on the line, Cantlay lost in the U.S. Amateur semifinals to Peter Uihlein, who went on to win in 2010 at Chambers Bay. The following year, Cantlay and the UCLA Bruins were at a college tournament in Augusta. College players typically stay an extra day to attend Monday practice at the Masters.

"I was miserable," Cantlay said. "I played bad at Augusta State, I missed playing in the Masters. I felt like I should have been playing and I was miserable."

But it turned out to be a great day - and it led to a great memory.

He sat down next to the putting green when along came Ben Crenshaw. Next to the two-time Masters champion was Vijay Singh.

"Ben Crenshaw was talking to his caddie, looked like they were having a good time," Cantlay recalls. "Every putt would roll down there. He was hitting big lag putts down there like this, maybe this much short, this much past."

He held his hands about a foot apart.

"Two balls, every one exactly the same, working on his speed, big high lines," Cantlay said. "Vijay, he was hooked up to this machine, left hand low. He had four people. He'd hit three, they'd go 8 feet by, a foot short. He'd turn around, he'd look at the guys, they'd talk, and then he'd go to the next one.

"I remember seeing the difference between Crenshaw and Vijay in putting," Cantlay said. "And I thought, Wow, there's a way I want to do it.'"

A year later, Cantlay was low amateur at the Masters.

AUGUSTA CHANGES: Augusta National appears on the verge of another expansion.

The Augusta Chronicle reports the club has filed preliminary plans with the Augusta Planning and Development Department that would move the tee box on No. 5 back 20 to 30 yards across Old Berckmans Road.

The road already has been closed to through traffic since 2015. Along with strengthening the hole, it would alleviate congestion behind the fourth green, which is directly in front of the tee.

The club told the newspaper it simply was exploring options.

According to the plans, any work would not start until after the Masters.

TIGER'S CROWD: Rory McIlroy was walking to the 14th tee during the second round of the Genesis Open at Riviera when he said, "He loses a half shot every day because of these crowds." He was talking about Tiger Woods.

It was the 21st time Woods and McIlroy have played together in competition, and the first time in five years as a part of a threesome on a weekday.

"It's two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that goes on around," McIlroy said later after his round. "So whether that calms down the more he plays and it doesn't become such a novelty that he's back out playing again ... it's tiring. I've got a headache after all that."

DIVOTS: Jordan Spieth was voted chairman of the PGA Tour's Player Advisory Council, meaning he will go on the policy board next year. ... In the seven events that make up the West Coast swing, only one player was added to the Masters field by winning - Ted Potter Jr. at Pebble Beach. ... Potter Jr. (Pebble Beach) and Bubba Watson (Riviera) made it the first time left-handed players won in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour since Phil Mickelson (Tour Championship) and Mike Weir (WGC-American Express Championship) in 2000.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Kevin Na, with one victory in his 15 years on the PGA Tour, went over $25 million in career earnings with a runner-up finish at Riviera.

FINAL WORD: "I dreamt of winning everywhere." - Patrick Cantlay, when asked if he ever dreamed of winning at Riviera when he was a kid.

Updated February 20, 2018

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