Last month, Charles Howell III saw a marathon bid to earn his way into a major championship field via the Official World Golf Rankings come up just short. Now with the U.S. Open at Merion on the horizon, he once again finds himself in a similar position.
Currently ranked 67th in the world, Howell is among those hoping to earn an exemption into the season’s second major by cracking the top 60 by Monday, May 27. Heading into the weekend at the HP Byron Nelson Championship in a tie for 21st – and opting not to participate in next week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational – Howell will need a strong 36 holes at TPC Four Seasons in order to accrue the necessary points.
The two-time PGA Tour champion is no stranger to calculating OWGR projections. After beginning the 2013 season outside the top 100, Howell staged a furious rally in an attempt land an invite to the Masters in his hometown of Augusta, Ga. by moving inside the top 50 in the world. Bolstered by four top-10 finishes and making 10 starts in the 12 weeks leading up to the season’s first major, Howell ultimately reached 54th in the world – but no higher. Denied a spot in the event he covets the most, he bounced back to record yet another top-10 finish earlier this month at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Howell is not alone, though, among players hoping the fluctuations of the rankings system will grant them an automatic spot at Merion next month. Of the players currently ranked between Nos. 51 and 70, only four are fully exempt into the U.S. Open: John Senden (No. 57), Padraig Harrington (No. 61), Angel Cabrera (No. 65) and Geoff Ogilvy (No. 69).
Included among the notable names currently near the top-60 bubble are Russell Henley (No. 54), a winner earlier this year at the Sony Open in Hawaii, Marc Leishman (No. 58), who has notched three straight top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, and Jimmy Walker (No. 59), who now holds the longest active streak of consecutive made cuts at 23 in a row. Australia’s Marcus Fraser is currently on the bubble at No. 60, while Sweden’s Alexander Noren, who beat Dustin Johnson at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this year, is currently slated as the last man left on the outside at No. 62.
For those that fall short of the May 27 cutoff, another set of exemptions will be available to all players inside the top 60 as of June 10, the Monday of Championship Week. Of course, by then players not otherwise exempt will have likely taken their chances in one of 11 different 36-hole sectional qualifiers held on June 3, aptly nicknamed “Golf’s Longest Day.”