It's the last big week for Open exemptions

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Dudley Hart had no chance of winning the Colonial, but birdies on three of the last four holes certainly came in handy. Hart finished fourth, moved up 12 spots to No. 44 in the world ranking and should be a shoo-in for the U.S. Open.

This is the final week for players not already eligible to get into the U.S. Open without having to qualify.

After the Memorial Tournament, the U.S. Golf Association will take the top 50 from the world ranking and the top 10 from the PGA Tour money list.

Players on the money bubble include Players Championship winner Craig Perks (16th), Compaq Classic winner K.J. Choi (19th) and Nissan Open winner Len Mattiace (21st). They need to finish at least third to have a chance of moving into the top 10.

The world ranking is a little more fickle, but no one is in a more precarious position than Charles Howell III, who is No. 50 and coming off consecutive missed cuts.

Ahead of Howell in the ranking are Matt Kuchar (47), Billy Andrade (48) and Mattiace (49), while John Huston (54) and Stuart Appleby (58) probably need a top-five finish at Muirfield Village.

Appleby, who has played in every major since 1997, helped himself by closing with a 64 at Colonial to tie for eighth, his first top-10 finish this year.

JACK'S CRACK: Tiger Woods has a chance to do something else Jack Nicklaus never could -- win the same PGA Tour event four straight years.

The first attempt comes this week at Nicklaus' own Memorial Tournament. Woods also will go for four straight victories at the NEC Invitational outside Seattle in August, and next year at the Bay Hill Invitational.

"The only time I ever had a chance to do that, they canceled the tournament," Nicklaus said. "So, I never had a chance."

Nicklaus won the Walt Disney World Open Invitational from 1971-73. The following year, however, the tournament switched to a team format for the next seven years.

"That really ticked me off," Nicklaus said.

Back then, Nicklaus probably wouldn't have known about the feat. The last player to win four straight was Walter Hagen at the PGA Championship from 1924-27.

"I never paid any attention to records," he said. "I just went out and played golf."

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