Former Jackson State and SWAC standout golfer Timothy O’Neal came up just short of playing the weekend in his first professional major golf tournament. O’Neal shot a 4-over par 74 in the first round Thursday and a 3-over par 73 in the second round Friday at the par 70 Chambers Bay Golf Club in University Place, Washington where the U. S. Open was staged last week. Jordan Spieth won the title at 5-under par. The 7-over par 147 total was just two strokes off the +5 cut in the year’s second major. He beat Tigers Woods’ score by nine strokes.
In his two days, O’Neal had three double-bogeys, eight bogeys and nine birdies over the links-like layout at Chambers Bay. He was perhaps done in by a quadruple bogey 8 on the par-4 11th hole Friday that soared his score to +7 after he had gotten inside the cut at +3. He finished the back nine Friday at even par with two bogeys, two birdies and three pars to finish at +7. He birdied his 18th and final hole.
The circuitous route O’Neal, 42, has taken to play in his first major is quite a story and was chronicled last week in Golfweek Magazine and by ESPN.com. It has included stints on the Buy.com Tour, Nationwide Tour, Web.com Tour, The PGA Tour Latinoamerica, egolf Professional Tour, the Asian Tour and the Morocco-based Atlas Pro Tour as well as several mini-circuits. And it has included two heartbreakingly close calls at PGA Q-School and two years with famous actor Will Smith as his sponsor. The story goes that a year ago, O’Neal made it to the U.S. Open sectional at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. He stayed overnight at a hotel 10 miles from the course, and headed there an hour and a half before his tee time. But there was an accident that caused an oil spill and shut down the highway. O’Neal arrived 30 minutes late for his tee time and was disqualified.
In May, O’Neal was the medalist at his local qualifier, shooting 63. He returned to the same Rockville, Md., sectional qualifier where disaster struck a year ago, though he wisely picked a hotel closer to the course. It took a 12-foot birdie putt on the third hole of a playoff with Joshua Persons for O’Neal to qualify for the U.S. Open for the first time in his 18-year career as a pro.
He called his mother, who burst into tears. He told his two kids – a daughter, 13, and a son, 9. “My son asked, “Are you going to play golf with Tiger Woods?’ I told him, ‘Not with him, but against him,’ ” O’Neal said. O’Neal has conditional status on the Web.com Tour this season, but he has yet to get into a single event. He has failed in his attempts to Monday qualify and played most of his competitive golf this year on the Swingthought.com Tour where he had a fourth-place finish in late May.