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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

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The Bryant Boys

by David Shefter   USGA

The USGA went out of its way this year to create a super grouping of the world's top three players, which includes Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The duo own nine PGA Tour victories at Torrey Pines, with Woods adding a Junior World title and Mickelson playing a lot of his high school matches at the venue.

There's also a grouping of 2007 Walker Cup teammates with amateur Rickie Fowler and recently turned professionals Dustin Johnson and Chris Kirk.

But what's missing is a grouping of brothers. Bart and Brad Bryant just might be playing for the last time together. Brad is eight years older than his PGA Tour-playing bro and is the reigning U.S. Senior Open champion. Bart needed 36 holes of qualifying to earn his spot in the field after just missing the Top 50 World Ranking exemption at the May 26 deadline.

Both players came into the press room Wednesday and it was a laugh-a-thon. You could see the genuine love these two have for each other. They talked about their days growing up at the nine-hole Alamogordo (N.M.) Country Club, when they would play all day and occasionally sleep by the pool at night so they could rearrange the hoses that irrigate the course. Back then, the couse didn't have an automatic sprinkler system.

The elder Bryant joked that he asked USGA officials at registration if he could use a cart. At Champions Tour events, sans the Senior Open, players have the option to ride. Meanwhile Bart had to walk 36 holes in Columbus, Ohio at two different courses in sectional qualifying. His agent, Mark Johnson, encouraged him to play and it paid off.

You won't find two nicer guys in the field this week. Both have worked hard to attain their status in professional golf. Neither is considered a superstar, but they thoroughly enjoy what they do. Their father, a retired Baptist minister, is still serving helping various churches in Florida. Their parents did get to see Bart play last month at The Players Championship, but mom only made it through 14 holes before passing out from the extreme heat. San Diego was a bit far to venture. You know they'll be watching and rooting back home.

The last brother combination to play in the same U.S. Open was Jay and Jerry Haas in 2002 at Bethpage. Jay has even played the same Open with his son, Bill, and the two made the cut in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills.

It would be really cool to see the Bryant boys make the cut and play the weekend at Torrey. Perhaps they would be lucky enough to be paired together, especially on Sunday since its Father's Day and both are proud papas.


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