Aron Price charged into the US Open field today, making it seven Australians who’ll tee up at famous Oakmont Country Club next week.
Price, 34, shot a superb second-round 66 to finish nine under and win medallist honours at his sectional qualifier at Timuquana Country Club, must minutes from his home near Jacksonville, Florida.
The Sydneysider will join fellow Aussies Jason Day, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Steve Bowditch, Cameron Smith and Geoff Ogilvy in Pittsburgh next week for his second major championship after the 2014 US Open.
The laconic Price beat good mate and New Zealander Tim Wilkinson by two strokes for one of four positions available at Timuquana in a qualifier extended into a second day by torrential rain on Monday (US time). A five-way playoff for the remaining two slots was jointly won by Floridians Matt Borchett and amateur Sam Horsfield.
But there was an element of fate that Price and Wilkinson, in excellent form on the US PGA Tour, would advance.
Price joked with a couple of social golfing partners last month after they shared a round with Wilkinson that if he could outscore the Kiwi at Timuquana, he would qualify for his second US Open.
“And that’s exactly how it worked out. I just didn’t know he would finish second, that’s all,” Price joked afterwards.
Price, prominent late in the Emirates Australian Open before a closing bogey at his home course at The Australian cost him a shot at Open Championship, had been two under through two holes with a birdie putt to come on the 12th, his third, when rain forced play to end on day one.
At the time, he’d been in a six-way tie for second, so when he resumed after a warm-up a waterlogged practice green and rammed his first 6m putt 5m by the hole and took a bogey from nowhere, he’d have had an excuse had things turned south.
But the popular New South Welshman, who lost full rights on the Web.com Tour last year and has been playing a series of qualifying events since, wasn’t fazed.
“I’ve been playing a lot of Monday quallies and they’re a real sprint, so here at least I had a few holes to make up for it,” said Price, who calmly made a birdie at the 13th to right the ship.
“I was actually pretty calm about it, more embarrassed by missing a putt that badly than anything. I made a couple of birdies before the turn and then a few more to make sure of it on the front nine.
“The best thing was I made a few five or six-footers when I had to and I haven’t done that for ages to keep rounds going. I only missed one fairway for the two rounds, so with the putter going OK, I knew I’d be all right. That’s a nice feeling.”
Price said playing Timuquana had been a bonus as he’s a semi-regular at the course, less than half an hour from his Ponte Vedra base.
“I was pretty confident, actually. I’ve been hitting it pretty well and I know this Florida grain, so even if that was false hope it was nice to go in with a positive thought.”
Price qualified for the 2014 US Open with good mate and fellow New South Welshman Nick Flanagan as his caddie. But Flanagan was unable to attend Pinehurst, where Price missed the cut with rounds of 78-74.
But Price has already extended the offer to Flanagan to attend Oakmont, the site of his remarkable 2003 US Amateur Championship victory.
“Hopefully he can make it. I think he’s got some pretty good memories around there and I haven’t been there yet, so it would be good to have that (in my favour),” Price said.
“I think the biggest thing I took from Pinehurst was that I was so excited just to be there that I spent from 7am to 4-5pm every day and it was really hot and so I just wasted way too much energy before the event.
“I’m thrilled to go back, but this time I’ll hopefully a bit more cool about the whole thing.”