GREENSBORO, N.C. – Rob Oppenheim is golf’s perennial bubble boy.
“I don’t think you ever get used to it. But I embrace it; it’s why we play,” he said.
Ah, but just imagine the rollercoaster ride the 40-year-old journeyman pro has endured over the years. In 2014, Oppenheim had a hole-in-one in the final round of Q-School to earn full status on the Korn Ferry Tour by a shot. A year later, he grabbed hold of the last PGA Tour card by $101. He’s also seen his bubble burst: In 2016, he finished 26th on the Korn Ferry Tour money list by $392 after Hurricane Matthew canceled the final event. Last year, he was on the right side of the line, playing well enough on the final day of the Korn Ferry Tour Championship to finish 20th overall in the three-tournament qualifying and secure his PGA Tour privileges for the 2019-20 season.
At this week’s Wyndham Championship, it’s Groundhog Day for Oppenheim, who entered the week at No. 145 in the FedEx Cup standings. Only the top 125 qualify for the Playoffs, which begin next week at the Northern Trust at TPC Boston.
Oppenheim, who grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, played his first Tour event at TPC Boston in 2006 when the Tour stop there was known as the Deutsche Bank Championship, and would desperately like to get in next week’s field. He’s never qualified for the FedEx Cup, finishing the regular season at No. 158 in 2016 and No. 180 in 2018.
Oppenheim, 40, took care of the first task at hand: He shot a pair 66s to make the weekend at 8-under 132 and is tied for 10th place, just two strokes behind the lead. And yet that still has Oppenheim, who is projected to finish No. 133, on the outside looking in.
“I guess I still have more work to do,” he said.
But there is significantly less pressure this week at the Wyndham Championship, where those who don’t qualify for the FedEx Cup typically are relegated to the three-event Korn Ferry Tour playoff.
This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic that canceled 13 events in the regular season, the Tour announced on April 30 that it is extending its exempt player membership into next season. Oppenheim still has incentive to finish in the top 125 besides the Boston tee time. Those who qualify for the FedEx Cup receive higher status and have more flexibility in making their schedule.
“Every year on Tour, I’ve always been to the point where any event I get in, I’m playing,” Oppenheim said.
Among those players still fighting to keep their season alive are Shane Lowry, Sergio Garcia and Russell Knox, who rallied to shoot 6-under 64 to make the 36-hole cut on the number. He’s currently projected at No. 125.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (No. 126) and Chesson Hadley (No. 128) also survived the cut, while Wyndham Clark (123), Fabian Gomez (124), and Bronson Burgoon (129) weren’t so lucky. Heading into the week, South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel held that spot, but he missed the cut and is projected to finish No. 127, and will have to sweat out whether his bubble will burst from the sidelines over the weekend.
“Irrelevant of what happens this week for me, I’ve got a full schedule next year,” he said Thursday. “Saying that, I really want to get through and keep playing. I think that eases the pressure, but maybe that’s why I haven’t thought about it too much.”