Cink back in the hunt as he earns US Open spot

Former British Open champion Stewart Cink will contest his first major championship in nearly two years after coming through sectional qualifying to earn a spot in next week's US Open.

Cink played a light schedule last year as his wife Lisa received treatment for breast cancer, even skipping the British Open where he beat Tom Watson in a play-off to win at Turnberry in 2009.

But he has played more frequently this year and his competitive sharpness was evident as he finished equal-fourth at the 36-hole qualifier in Columbus on Monday, earning one of 14 spots from that venue for the US Open, which starts at Erin Hills in Wisconsin next Thursday.

"I was not in competitive form last year," Cink, 44, told the US Golf Association (USGA) website.

"We were right in the midst of Lisa's treatments, and we were focused on that, so I didn't even try to qualify. To come back this year and get through successfully, it really means a lot to me."

Cink has not played a Major since the 2015 British Open at St Andrews.

The Columbus qualifier stretched into Tuesday, when four players had to return to play off for three spots in the Open field.

Michael Putnam, a former United States Walker Cup player, was the unlucky man to miss out.

More than 900 players competed for 72 spots in the Open at 10 sectional qualifiers around the US on Monday, after previous international qualifiers in England and Japan.

Among other qualifiers on Monday were amateurs Joaquin Niemann, Chile's world No. 1 amateur, and Stewart Hagestad, the leading amateur at the US Masters in April. - REUTERS