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Qualifier in with a 59

Owen Browne almost didn't stick around for his final 18 holes of US Open qualifying yesterday after shooting an opening 73 at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. But he did, and he shot a 59 to join 21 other players in making the field for the national championship, which will be next week at Pinehurst, N.C.

Also qualifying yesterday was Brookline's James Driscoll, who shot a more consistent 66-67 to finish four strokes behind medalist J.P. Hayes (62-67).

''I asked the scorer what the protocol was for withdrawing," said Browne. ''I didn't want to get in trouble with the USGA if I bailed out. But it didn't feel right not playing. I feel like every round is an opportunity to learn something."

Others who qualified at Woodmont, where the event was delayed overnight because of storms, were Tommy Armour, Rocco Mediate, and former PGA champion Steve Elkington.

At East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, former US Amateur champion Matt Kuchar shot 66 in his second round and narrowly got one of the six spots. The medalist was Derek Brown (65-66) at 9-under 131.

Browne had never shot 59, and there was only one small piece of bad news: It wasn't even the course record. Five years ago, Shigeki Maruyama had a 58 during US Open qualifying. The scores do not go into the record books because these are not official PGA Tour events.

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