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Leonard and Casey qualify for Pinehurst

ESPN staff
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Justin Leonard won the British Open in 1997 © Getty Images
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After three years of coming up short in qualifying, Justin Leonard earned a return to the US Open.

The 1997 British Open champion, who has won 12 times on the PGA Tour but not since 2008, was among the 16 players at the Columbus site who qualified for the US Open at Pinehurst on June 12-15.

"It'll be fun," said Leonard, who'll turn 42 on the day of the Open's final round. "And Pinehurst is one of my favorites, so a little extra incentive there."

Leonard was co-medalist through 36 holes on Monday at Brookside and Scioto. He tied for 15th at the Open in Pinehurst in 1999 when Payne Stewart won and tied for 23rd in the 2005 championship won by Michael Campbell.

Among those also qualifying were Bo Van Pelt, Mark Wilson, Kevin Tway and Luke Guthrie, South Korea's Seung-yul Noh and Hyung-Sung Kim, Australia's Aaron Baddeley and Rod Pampling and England's Paul Casey.

Playing 18 holes on each of two difficult courses after playing four rounds nearby at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, Baddeley said it's a grueling way to spend what is usually a day off.

"To come out and play good is a bonus," he said after tying for 37th at the Memorial on Sunday. "I played really nice last week. I made like a million birdies. I just made way too many bogeys."

The Columbus site featured the most PGA Tour players. Another big tour site was in Memphis, Tennessee, where David Toms, J.B. Holmes, Joe Ogilvie and David Gossett were among the 13 to earn spots. Gossett, a former PGA Tour winner, was an alternate out of 18-hole local qualifying.

Now that Monday's qualifying is over, 150 players are in the US Open. Six spots remaining will be for anyone who gets into the top 60 in the world ranking after this week, and the rest will be distributed to alternates. The order of alternates was not released.

A year ago in Columbus, Justin Thomas came down the stretch with a shot at qualifying only to finish bogey-bogey at Brookside and miss making the field by a shot. This year, he hit his second shot to the closing hole to almost exactly the same spot but was able to make a par. He finished at 5-under and shared medalist honors with Leonard and Noh.

"It's cool to finish in the same spot and do that. I played so well last year and those last two holes were the difference," he said. "This'll be my first major and I'm looking forward to a great experience."

There were also those who kicked away quality chances to make the Open field. Danny Lee, who won the US Amateur at Pinehurst in 2008, was at 7-under on the day when he triple-bogeyed the 13th and then doubled the 14th at Scioto. Michael Putnam was among the leaders until he played his final six holes in five over and had to go to a 5-man play-off for the final three spots.

He then lost out on the second hole and will be an alternate.

This article first appeared on ESPN.com

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