Rhoden doesn’t qualify for U.S. Senior Open | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Rhoden doesn’t qualify for U.S. Senior Open

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Seven-time American Century Championship winner Rick Rhoden’s run of qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open is over.

Rhoden, a former major league pitcher from Boynton Beach, Fla., finished a stroke out of a playoff for the final sectional berth Monday in Jupiter, Fla.

Rhoden fired a 1-over-par 73 at the 7,038-yard Dye Preserve Golf Club to finish seventh in the 85-player field, ending his streak of consecutive U.S. Senior Open appearances at four.

Vicente Fernandez, a 63-year-old pro from Argentina who has won four times on the Champions Tour, claimed first place in the 18-hole qualifier with a 4-under 68. Jerry Tucker (70), Kenny Knox (70) and Ed Humenik (72) also qualified for the July 27-Aug. 2 U.S. Senior Open at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind. The sectional also saw two players shoot 72 who will serve as alternates.

“I played the best that I have in all five that I tried. It was just two shots that cost me three shots,” Rhoden said.

Rhoden started off on fire and was 3 under after four holes and could have been in even better position going into the second nine.

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“I had plenty of chances. I missed two birdie putts from five feet on the front,” he said.

He remained at 3 under and among the leaders through 10 holes before giving back the shots on two holes on the back nine.

On the 11th hole, Rhoden had a 140-yard approach to the green, but sent the downwind shot over the green. He stepped off the yardage while walking to the hole, and it measured 132 yards. Unable to get his chip shot up and down for par, Rhoden dropped back to 2 under.

Rhoden’s undoing, however, came later on the back nine when one of his tee shots on a par-4 hole found a car-sized bunker. He teed off with a 3-wood, thinking that he couldn’t reach the bunker, which was listed as 270 yards from the tee.

“I couldn’t get it out, and I gave away three shots there,” Rhoden said of a possible birdie turning into a double-bogey. “I hit two balls like I wanted to hit them. They were mental mistakes, not physical ones.

“It’s a one-shot deal,. Stuff happens when you play at a place you are not familiar with.”

Rhoden lost another stroke to par on the 16th hole when he pulled an approach shot to the left of the green and couldn’t chip his ball close enough to make par. Needing a birdie on one of his final two holes to join a playoff for the last qualifying spot, Rhoden was unable to get any approaches close to the pin and settled for pars and a round of 73.

Rhoden will defend his ACC title against 77 celebrities from the entertainment and sports worlds on July 17-19 at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Stateline. He is listed as a 9-5 favorite to win his eighth championship.

“I feel good about the way I’m playing,” he said. “I’m playing a lot better than I was at this time last year.”

Spectators can purchase tickets ahead of time for practice and tournament rounds. Go to tahoecelebritygolf.com. Tickets are $15 for practice rounds July 14-16 and $25 once the 54-hole tournament begins on July 17. A weeklong pass for $60 also is available, and children ages 10 and under will be admitted for free with a paying adult.