Oppenheim update: He's on 'JV' tour for now

Courtesy photo.Back at Pebble Beach a year ago, Rob Oppenheim, on right, and his brother Kenny, on left, repeated their partnership from the 1999 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. Today, Oppenheim is back playing, this time on the Korn Ferry Tour in St. Augustine, Fla. as he awaits his return to the PGA Tour. 

Have you noticed that Andover’s Rob Oppenheim, a 2020 PGA Tour member, is back on golf’s minor league circuit, the Korn Ferry Tour (formerly Web.com Tour)?

Oppenheim began his second consecutive Korn Ferry tournament yesterday in St. Augustine, Fla., about a two-hour drive from his family home in Winter Park, Fla.

Isn’t this the same guy currently ranking 125th overall in FedEx Cup points standings?

Yes.

It’s a little confusing.

Oppenheim’s status as a 2020 PGA Tour member didn’t qualify him for every PGA Tour event.

Out of the 50 players who won their tour cards at the end of the 2019 season, Oppenheim currently ranks 23rd. That is fluid, changing each week depending on the player’s performance.

The problem for Oppenheim is that most of the top PGA Tour pros are returning to “work” with events beginning to open last week. Some of these events are usually skipped by the big-time guys. But not now.

The other fly in the ointment is that several ex-PGA Tour players, many of whom are currently on the Champions Tour, which hasn’t began play yet, still have PGA Tour status from their careers and they have entered these events.

Guys like Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman, Keith Clearwater, David Frost and Vijay Singh are taking possible openings from Oppenheim & Co.

That means Oppenheim either sits or plays in the Korn Ferry Tour. Current PGA Tour guys are guaranteed spots on this tour.

While that appears to handcuff Oppenheim and players with similar “status,” keeping them from earning money/FedEx Cup points to improve their status, there is some good news.

The PGA Tour decided, due to the restrictions with players in Oppenheim’s position, that they will automatically receive their tour cards for 2021.

“That was great news,” said Oppenheim, whose 125th ranking in FedEx Cup points would qualify him for “full” PGA Tour status in 2021.

He will probably drop several spots as PGA Tour players below him will earn FedEx Cup points this week at the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, S.C., while he is playing in the Korn Ferry tournament in St. Augustine.

Testing for the virus takes place every Monday. Oppenheim says hand-sanitizer is available “everywhere” and social distancing has been easy without fans.

Oppenheim will play on the Korn Ferry Tour next week, too, before getting his first post-pandemic PGA Tour event in Detroit (Rocket Mortgage Classic) on July 2.

“It appears I’ll play in at least four more PGA Tour events before the season ends,” said Oppenheim.

The pressure will be on Oppenheim to perform well in those four events, which could increase to five or more if he has a big week.

Being in the top 125 spots by the end of the 2020 season would earn full status for next year, which would be the ultimate goal, allowing him to know his schedule for the entire year.

“It feels great to compete again,” said Oppenheim. “The toughest part is my kids were used to me being home and every night they’re asking when I’m coming home again. I’m excited to be back, working off the rust. I have to play every chance I get.”

 

Oppenheim in Hartford?

Rob Oppenheim may make the trip to New England to try and qualify for next week’s popular PGA Tour event, the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn. Oppenheim would try to qualify via the Monday Qualifier, which most tournaments offer a few spots after an 18-hole, one-day event.

Oppenheim needs to play in as many PGA Tour events as possible in hopes of getting enough FedEx Cup points this season to earn full exemption status (top 125 on points list).

Oppenheim is playing in this week’s Korn Ferry Tour event in St. Augustine, Fla. That tourney goes from Wednesday to Saturday. He would fly out on Sunday to Hartford, Conn. if he attempts to qualify.

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