U.S. Open

U.S. Open 2024: He's missed 4 straight KFT cuts, was the last man into the field and now on the leaderboard. Who the hell is Jackson Suber?

June 13, 2024

Jackson Suber and his caddie, Ryan Orr, prepare for a shot on the second hole during the first round of the 124th U.S. Open.

Alex Slitz

PINEHURST, N.C. — Jackson Suber understood the confusion, why there were craned necks and double-takes and whispers of “Who’s that?” that cut through the harsh quiet directed at the young man with the athletic swing and sinewy frame rubbing shoulders with major winners. Everyone earns their way into the U.S. Open, including Suber, even if he got in because another went out.

It’s just that the player that exited was Jon Rahm, who was scheduled to play with fellow green jacket owners Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama. But when the Spaniard withdrew, the trio of Masters winners was whittled to a duo joined by the Korn Ferry Tour player who hadn’t played on the weekend in a month. Suber knew he didn’t belong here, yet was comfortable being out of place, displaying the type of nonchalance swagger that comes with a conviction built through work and doubt.

And after Round 1, the major champs were looking up at the unknown.

The last man into the field was one of the few names in red on Thursday at Pinehurst, as Suber authored a one-under 69.

“Yeah, there wasn't really nerves honestly,” Suber said after this round. “I didn't think it mattered much, to be honest. Obviously it did. But I wasn't really familiar with how there's spots saved for the World Ranking and ... if you're first alternate you have a pretty solid chance depending on where you qualify. It's been a roller coaster. That's the only way I can describe it.”

Who is Suber? The 24-year-old hails from Tampa. Baseball was his first love, followed by hoops, but golf is what stuck. He was lightly recruited, although ended up at the University of Mississippi, where he finished his senior year as a second-team All-American. Suber earned his Korn Ferry Tour card in his first full-year season as a professional and did so despite conditional status.

But Suber’s been in somewhat of a sophomore slump, missing four straight cuts and five of his last six on the feeder circuit. He seemingly was on the wrong side of the line at the Maryland qualifier, finishing one shot behind an automatic invite to Pinehurst.

“In that qualifier, I had like a six-footer on the last hole to get through and ended up missing that, to get to a playoff and missed that,” Suber explained. “Went into the playoff and was pretty bummed but ended up on the third hole making like a 50-foot putt for birdie when my opponent missed like a four- or five-footer, and I kind of thought I had lost it.”

However, Suber was a first alternate, which turned out to be good enough after Rahm went down. Suber responded to the opportunity with a performance worthy of its marquee grouping. It wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing display from tee to green. Suber found just eight fairways and 10 greens, and finished with a negative strokes-gained figure off the tee. Conversely, what gives his property juice is the putting surfaces, and on that front Suber was superb, ranking 10th in strokes gained around the green and hitting the second-fewest putts on the round.

Cliche as it sounds, perhaps most impressive was the kid’s grit. In how he kept composed in front of Spieth and Matsuyama, and the significant crowd that those two commanded, sure. But also in how he kept steady when it appeared his round would go sideways. After a birdie at the 13th got him to two under Suber made back-to-back bogeys, and it sure seemed like the wheels were coming off a feel-good story. But Suber answered at the 16th, dropping a 20-footer for birdie on a hole that surrendered just a dozen red figures on the day. He kept his under-par score secured through the 17th and 18th, besting both Spieth and Matsuyama by three on the day.

“I'm sure I'm pretty tired right now,” Suber admitted. “There was good and bad moments, but I felt like I stayed pretty level and didn't let either emotion get the best of me.”

Now, there are plenty of one-day major wonders, and there’s a reason trophies of consequence are not handed out after 36 or 54 holes but 72. To think a player ranked 293rd in the world, who was trunk-slamming at the Visit Knoxville Open can compete against the likes of Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Ludvig Aberg, Bryson DeChambeau and the rest of the world’s best sure seems like a reach. But the beauty of this tournament is it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, only if you can ball. Jackson Suber did the most important thing he could on Thursday, which is make his Friday matter.

“You never know if you're actually going to do it, but always know that that's—I feel like I always knew that was in me,” Suber said. “Didn't know if it was going to happen for sure because nothing in life is for sure, but for sure I was going to give it my best chance and worked hard to be here and feel like I have a good earning of this and just need to keep working hard and staying humble.”

And the last we checked, it doesn’t matter if you're the last man in, only that you’re the last man standing.