Oppenheim, 35, finally makes Tour dream a reality

By Will GrayOctober 5, 2015, 12:01 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – As Rob Oppenheim stood behind the scoring area at TPC Sawgrass, he looked up wistfully at the pine trees towering above his head.

His work was done. An entire week – heck, an entire Web.com Tour season spent on the bubble had come to a close, and his fate was now in the hands of others.

“The golfing gods,” he said with a shake of his head. “They owe me.”

Two hours later, by the thinnest of margins, they paid him back and made Oppenheim the key figure in the season’s final event.

The Web.com Tour Championship is rarely about who wins or who loses the tournament; it’s about who survives the four-week finals gauntlet and advances to the PGA Tour. Twenty-five cards have been up for grabs over the last month, and Oppenheim claimed the final golden ticket thanks to an unexpected source – Lucas Glover.

Oppenheim and Glover are both 35, having been born only two months apart. But that’s where the comparisons stop. Glover is an accomplished PGA Tour winner, the lone major champion in this week’s field and a player who had already clinched his return to the big leagues.

Oppenheim, meanwhile, has never held a PGA Tour card. He needed a late hole-in-one at Web.com Tour Q-School last year to simply earn a full Web.com card, and he was a hard-luck loser when the regular season came to a close.

Buoyed by his win at the Air Capital Classic in June, Oppenheim entered the final regular-season event on the cusp of earning his card. But he missed the cut in Portland by a shot and finished 26th on the money list when the top 25 players earned a promotion.

His $160,159 in earnings left him $943 short of his goal.

Oppenheim took the close call in stride, but after his round Sunday at TPC Sawgrass it appeared he had again come up agonizingly short. He closed 67-67 over the weekend, but was dealt a cruel blow when his 9-iron approach on No. 15 hit the hole on the fly.

Instead of settling at the bottom of the cup, it caromed off the flagstick and rolled 20 feet away. A potential eagle – or at least an easy birdie – turned into a disappointing par.

“It’s a tough two shots,” he said. “I’m not sure it’s as close as anyone has come, I’m sure everyone’s got their stories. But it’s close.”


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When Oppenheim finished his round, he was projected at No. 28 in the standings. But the afternoon pressures took effect on the leaders, and he continued to linger near the bubble. When Glover closed with bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18, it moved Oppenheim from a five-way tie for 13th into a six-way tie for 12th.

That, it turns out, was all the difference. Already 30 minutes down the road, Oppenheim jumped from No. 27 to the coveted No. 25 spot. His final margin over Eric Axley, who himself finished No. 25 at last year’s Finals, was $101.

Believing that his chances were gone, Oppenheim left after his round. He and his pregnant wife, Lacey, were at a gas station with their young daughter when they realized they needed to turn the car around.

“They must have shown on the coverage that I got in, because the phone went berserk,” he said. “I just knew. My wife, we gave each other a nice hug.”

Oppenheim was the most improbable beneficiary Sunday, but he was hardly alone. Five players played their way inside the bubble this week, including former PGA Tour winner Robert Garrigus.

“It was very stressful. I told [playing partner] Thomas Aiken, that this is like the first hole of the Masters for four days,” Garrigus said. “Every shot, every hole. It’s just nerve-wracking. I’m glad I got through it.”

Aiken entered this week without a postseason cent to his name, having missed the cut at each of the first three Finals events. But the South African closed with a 65 to tie for fifth, and after a European Tour career that has included three wins he now plans to shift his focus.

“Since I was a kid, I played junior golf over here and my dream was always to play on the PGA Tour,” Aiken said. “I happened to go the European route first, and it’s been more and more difficult to transition over here.”

Not every bubble story, though, can have a happy ending. Billy Hurley III entered this week at No. 26 in earnings, and he seemed to hover around that projected standing all week.

Hurley’s prediction on Wednesday – “You can’t finish 40th here and expect to earn your card” – proved ominously accurate. At 2 under, he tied for 43rd and finished 27th in earnings, $394 short of a return to the PGA Tour.

Hurley created a roar when his 45-foot birdie putt on the final green dropped, but his ultimate undoing came two holes earlier when he pulled a wedge into the water on the par-5 16th, leading to a costly bogey.

“I didn’t play particularly well today,” he said. “Missed some chances throughout the whole day. But I played my best to do what I could, and it was a tremendous putt on the last to even give myself a chance.”

Luke Guthrie made a late charge at the Wyndham Championship to secure conditional PGA Tour status for next year, and he had again played his way inside the number on the back nine Sunday. But Guthrie failed to birdie any of his last eight holes, left to especially rue a 7-foot miss for birdie on No. 18. He finished 38th.

“That’s the closest I hit it all day,” he said. “I just couldn’t get the ball close enough. You can’t expect to make 30-footers, and I had those all day.”

But the man of the hour, the poster child for bubble redemption was Oppenheim, the final beneficiary of this month-long marathon.

After racing back to TPC Sawgrass to accept his newly minted card, and with a glass of celebratory champagne still in his hand, the Tour’s newest rookie assessed his revised tab with the golfing gods.

“They got me back, and then some,” he said with a smile. “We’re all square.”

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Koepka: Second-place finishes becoming 'annoying'

By Al TaysMay 28, 2018, 12:02 am

Brooks Koepka didn't go down without a fight.

Trailing Justin Rose by four shots going into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational, Koepka shot his second 7-under 63 of the week - and made up precisely one shot. He finished solo second at 17 under par, three shots behind Rose.

He could only marvel at the Englishman's performance in closing with a 6-under 64.

"It was pretty impressive," he said. "Justin played well. Hat's off to him. Any time you can come into a lead with four shots and play the way he did today, that's impressive."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Although Koepka was pleased with his own play - especially his putting - he said it felt "annoying" to come in second. Again.

"I feel like we've had so many second-place finishes," he said. "Always seem to run into a buzz saw, whatever it is."

Since May of 2016, Koepka has five solo second-place finishes and one T-2. But he also has a U.S. Open title, won last year at Erin Hills. He'll attempt to defend that title June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills. "It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season," he said. "Kind of peaking right where I need to be."

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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee's task was simple: A birdie on No. 18 would win her the tournament. It was a manageable par 5, the easiest hole on the course in the final round.

After a good drive, her second shot came closer to trouble than much of the gallery probably realized.

''I almost clipped the tree,'' Lee said. ''I overcut it a little bit, but it finished out in a good position.''

Lee's shot came to rest just to the right of the green, and from there it was a simple chip and putt for the birdie that gave her a one-stroke win over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday. Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, won for the first time since 2016. It was the Australian's fourth career victory.

Lee three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round about the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18. The 18th hole was 470 yards Sunday. There were 44 birdies there in the final round.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


''The tee was up,'' she said. ''I was pretty confident that I could get there in two if I had a good drive.''

Lee made her winning putt from about 3 feet. She finished at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

''I kind of knew that 16 was the number and I mean, I give my best,'' Kim said. ''I make some good shots and birdies.''

Moriya Jutanugarn (65) finished third at 14 under.

Lee took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and that was her margin over playing partner Stacy Lewis before Lewis (71) bogeyed No. 7 and 8. Kim emerged as the biggest threat to Lee when she birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine. Lewis is playing four months' pregnant with her first child.

Kim and Lee were briefly tied at 15 under, but then Lee made a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th, while Kim bogeyed 15. Lee saved par on 15 despite a wayward drive into a bunker.

''I wasn't sure where I was score-wise then. That par 5 is reachable in two, so I think a lot of people would have made birdie there,'' Lee said. ''The next tee shot I just pulled into the bunker. ... I think that was really important for me to hole that par putt just to keep the momentum going.''

Lee had gone 38 consecutive holes without a bogey before making one on the par-4 17th. That, combined with Kim's birdie on 18, left the two golfers tied, but Lee still had the 18th to come.

Su Oh (68) and Lindy Duncan (69) finished at 13 under, and Megan Khang (67) was another stroke back. Lewis finished at 11 under along with Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Danielle Kang (70).

Lewis birdied three of the first six holes, but Lee did as well.

''It's hard to get close when somebody does that,'' Lewis said. ''She played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn't make any mistakes.''

Lee lost this event by one stroke last year. Shanshan Feng, the 2017 winner , finished tied for 21st this time.

The LPGA has had a different winner in each of its 13 tournaments this year. The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Shoal Creek.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst wishes he had played this well in his 23 years on the European Tour.

''I know a lot more about my swing now and I guess you get that with age and experience,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said after shooting an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

Broadhurst finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round co-leaders Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and moved to the top of the money list. He won six times on the European Tour, was a 1991 Ryder Cup player for Europe and has three European Senior Tour victories.

''It was really a special week,'' he said. ''It got a little bit tense out there. I knew I was playing well but I didn't seem to making any progress against Tim Petrovic. He was side-by-side on the back nine it seemed.''

He learned his lead was three strokes standing on the 18th tee when his caddie asked a television announcer.

''So we put my driver away and reached for the rescue club,'' he said. ''If I made a 5 there that would be fine.''

Broadhurst started the round two strokes behind Petrovic and McCarron, birdied the first hole and was tied with Petrovic for the lead by the turn. He took his first lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, led by two after 16 and birdied the final two holes, including a dramatic 40-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole.

''I guess it would have been a bit of anti-climax if I would have three-putted the last green, but that would have given Tim a chance of holing his second shot,'' he said. ''I actually spoke to my caddie about that going down the last - we don't want to three-putt and five him the opportunity because stranger things have happened in golf. To see it go in the middle of the hole was just a special feeling.''

Petrovic said missed birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 were costly, but it might not have mattered with the way Broadhurst was playing.

''In hindsight it was all for naught,'' he said. ''He was so far ahead of us. Hat's off the guy. It was a great week - we just got beat. When he made the putt on 18 ahead of us I almost started clapping in the fairway and waving a white towel. It was well-deserved. That was great playing. He won the championship for sure.''

Broadhurst shot 72 in the first round, started rolling in putts with a 66 in the second round and was 15 under on the weekend. In addition to the leading 26 birdies, he topped the putts per greens in regulations numbers for the tournament as well with a 1.574 average.

''I wasn't aware I made that many birdies,'' he said. ''That's pretty impressive around this course.''

He said his game has long been unpredictable.

''I'm not blessed with a consistent swing like Bernhard Langer, but when it's on, it works,'' he said. ''If I'm putting well, then anything can happen, really.''