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Levin Lands Open Invite

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Former Lobo golfer makes tournament thanks to world rankings

SAN FRANCISCO – Three strikes and you’re in. That’s how Spencer Levin arrived at the 112th U.S. Open.

The mixed metaphor explanation in a moment. For now, Levin, the former Lobo who grew up in Elk Grove, Calif., just a short piece of road from the Olympic Club, is relishing the chance to spend some quality time between the ropes in what is practically a backyard Open.

“I was fired up, and it wasn’t just because it’s so close to home,” said Levin, who turns 28 on Friday. “I just like this golf course so much.”

More golf

There is always a battery of compelling stories at a U.S. Open about how someone came by his invitation. Levin’s chapter in this year’s book qualifies as bizarre – and circular.

Less than two weeks ago, as Levin made the turn on the back nine Sunday at the Memorial, he was firmly in the lead and closing in on his first PGA Tour victory. Moreover, a top-three finish would have clinched a tee time at Olympic Club.

But Levin stumbled on the back nine. Tiger Woods won, and Levin finished fourth. Strike one.

The scenario was eerily similar to what happened to Levin in February in Phoenix, where he carried a six-shot lead into the final round. Levin faded with a 75 and finished third; Kyle Stanley roared back to win.

The day after the Memorial, Levin had a 36-hole Open qualifier. Perhaps weary from the grind of Sunday, he was unable to advance there, either. Strike two.

He headed to Memphis, where even a decent finish would have lifted his world ranking from No. 61 and into the top 60. The top 60 after Memphis qualify for the U.S. Open.

Almost certainly mentally gassed, Levin missed the cut. Strike three.

“I wasn’t anxious about it,” Levin said, “because I figured I wouldn’t make it (to San Francisco).”

Ah, but he did, and was one of the last to do so. The quirky World Golf Rankings, which frankly few people – players included – know well enough to explain in lay terms, saw Levin get that bump to No. 60. On Sunday night, Levin learned of the news.

“I really don’t know how (the world rankings) work,” Levin said. “All I know is if you play well and have high finishes in big tournaments, it seems to help. My agent told me a bunch of scenarios, but it was out of my hands. It was cool how it worked out.”

Levin toured Olympic on Tuesday alongside buddy Sergio Garcia. Garcia said Levin will land in the winner’s circle sooner or later.

“It’s just a matter of time with him,” Garcia said. “It’ll happen. It’s just a matter of when. He’s absolutely finding his way.”

Levin, 36th on the PGA Tour money list with $1.24 million, will have about 10 to 15 family and friends walking with him for the first two rounds. He tees off at 3:35 p.m. MDT today, and 9:50 a.m. Friday.

Until now, Levin’s most memorable U.S. Open snapshot was a hole-in-one at No. 7 at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island in 2004. He tied for 13th that year as an amateur. The last Open Levin played was at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005 – his first tournament as a pro.

“I’m really happy to be here,” Levin said after his Tuesday practice round, which included a crowd-pleasing eagle-3 from about 110 yards out on Olympic Club’s mammoth, par-5 16th. “I’ve proved myself on the tour, and (the Open) is a big deal to everybody. The fact that I’m here is a bonus.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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