Michael Muehr (Greg Mattura/NorthJersey.com photo)
Thanks to Greg Mattura of NorthJersey.com
Tyler Hall has a chance to win another New Jersey Open Championship and one of his challengers was required to withdraw Tuesday due to COVID-19.
Amateur Mike Muehr will not return for Wednesday's final round after Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday added the golfer's home state of Virginia onto a list of 31 states that require a 14-day quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Golfers making the cut to Wednesday's final round are required to withdraw if in the past two weeks they have visited states added to the list: Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia, and Washington.
"A very difficult decision for us to make, but the decision already has been made," Kevin Purcell, executive director of the New Jersey State Golf Association, said late Tuesday afternoon. "The policy was in place, and there's already been people who have withdrawn from the event because they had played in the states that had been on the list at that time."
Hall, a pro at Upper Montclair, shot 5-under-par 67 during Tuesday's second round at Knickerbocker Country Club and stood at 7-under 137. Muehr, who plays out of Pine Valley and won his third Crump Cup title there last fall, shot a second consecutive 69 and was one shot back at 138.
Muehr, a former pro, and last year's State Open runner-up was notified via phone of the withdrawal a couple of hours after completing his round.
"The timing was bad," Muehr told AmateurGolf.com. "If it happened a day later, I'm good.
"I totally acknowledge and respect that [the NJGA's decision]. It was an easy decision. I wasn't going to fight it."
Hall will shoot for his third State Open title. Hall, 38, won in 2015 and 2016 and was runner-up in 2018. He holds a one-shot lead over amateur Mark Costanza of Hamilton Farm, who shot a tournament-best 65 for 138. They will tee off in Wednesday's final twosome at 8:40 a.m.
“Fortunately, I’ve been in this spot a few times,” Hall said a couple of hours before news of Muehr's withdrawal. “so I kind of know how to handle it.”
In his first event back since September, Muehr had an interesting scorecard – how many golfers have more eagles than birdies? He had two eagles, one birdie and two bogeys for his second consecutive 69. He eagled the par-5 10th and the par-5 18th, closing by sinking a downhill 20-footer.
Muehr made the tournament officials DQ him rather than withdrawing, saying "I did make sure I let them know 'You guys have to DQ me. I'm not WD'ing'.'"
Muehr's disqualification was reminiscent of what happened to Ben James of Connecticut, who earlier this month was unable to defend his state junior title after being forced to withdraw by a similar COVID-19 quarantine.
ABOUT THE New Jersey Open
54-hole stroke play event for professional and
male golfers. Qualifying is required for those who do
not meet the exemption criteria. A cut will be made
the low 50 and ties after the 2nd round.
View Complete Tournament Information