US OPEN qualifying status

Tuesday, May 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OPEN SEASON: The Kemper Open is the last chance to avoid qualifying for the U.S. Open, and no one is on the bubble quite like Steve Stricker.

The U.S. Golf Association gives exemptions to the top 50 in the world ranking and the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list after this week. Stricker, who won the Match Play Championship in Australia to start the year, is 49th in the world ranking and No. 10 (by $2,750) on the money list.

``It's definitely on my mind,'' Stricker said. ``I have prepared myself in case I have to go to sectional qualifying. It's tough to get in. I've played well at times, but not well enough.''

This would be a good week for him to play well enough. According to the IMG office in London, which administers the world ranking, Stricker likely will stay in the top 50 provided he makes the cut at the Kemper Open.

If he misses the cut, he will fall to at least No. 51. History is on Stricker's side, since he won the Kemper in 1996 and has two other top-10 finishes there.

Steve Lowery is No. 52 and would need at least a top 10 to avoid qualifying.

Meanwhile, Greg Norman (No. 55) and Fred Couples (No. 56) will have to go through qualifying to get a tee time at Southern Hills. Both missed the cut at Colonial last week, and neither is playing the Kemper.

Those who are almost certain to stay in the top 50 include Scott Hoch (41), Dennis Paulson (42), Bernhard Langer (45) and Eduardo Romero (48).