May27 Pampling among those exempt from qualifying


Oberholser was losing a spot or two each week in the world ranking while recovering from injuries to his left hand, falling to No. 45. But he dropped six spots to No. 51 at the worst time - the cutoff for the top 50 being exempt to the U.S. Open.

He wound up .004 points behind Soren Hansen, who already was eligible.

``It's a goofy system - we all know that. But it's the system we have,'' Oberholser said while waiting on lunch at Muirfield Village. ``I probably deserve it. I haven't played but five events because of my hand. And when I have played, I haven't played well.''

The U.S. Open will be held June 12-15 at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

Fourteen players were exempt from U.S. Open qualifying based on the world ranking and money lists on the PGA and European tour.

Rod Pampling received a small consolation from Colonial. Even though he lost a two-shot lead on the back nine to Phil Mickelson, his tie for second at the Crowne Plaza Invitational was enough to move Pampling from No. 69 to No. 47 and avoid a 36-hole qualifier Monday.

Also getting into the U.S. Open through the world ranking were Ian Poulter, Stuart Appleby, Robert Karlsson, Sean O'Hair, Martin Kaymer, Justin Leonard, Mike Weir and J.B. Holmes.

Ryuji Imada, Anthony Kim and Jeff Quinney earned spots by being in the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list. Miguel Angel Jimenez defeated Oliver Wilson in a playoff at the BMW Championship in England, and both qualified for the U.S. Open as Nos. 1 and 2 on the European tour's Order of Merit.

Seventy-two players were exempt from qualifying, including defending champion Angel Cabrera and Tiger Woods, who was exempt in 10 categories. That leaves 84 spots available at 36-hole sectional qualifiers next Monday.

How did Oberholser fall six spots in one week?

He lost a few points when his tie for fourth at Colonial two years ago was wiped off the slate, but that wasn't enough on its own. It took good results from six players on three tours who were behind him in the ranking going into last week:

- Toru Taniguchi tied for fifth on the Japan PGA Tour.

- Tim Clark birdied two of the last three holes and tied for second at Colonial, along with Pampling.

- Wilson moved into the top 50 with his playoff loss at Wenworth, while Hansen birdied the 17th hole to tie for 34th earning enough points to hold down the 50th spot in the ranking.

- Quinney birdied the last hole at Colonial and tied for seventh, earning enough points to move from No. 52 to No. 49.

``The perfect storm,'' Oberholser said. ``I kept looking at the ranking and was falling one spot, two spots. And then I fall six spots when I least needed that to happen. It's very disappointing.''

Oberholser said he will not go to sectional qualifying Monday because he doesn't think his tender hand can take 36 holes in one day.

He had not played since a tie for 25th at the Masters, taking six weeks off for rest and therapy and returning last week at the Colonial, where he tied for 59th and received no points. It would not have mattered had he taken last week off because Oberholser has played fewer than 40 tournaments over the last two years while coping with various injuries.

And this might not be the last of his troubles.

He said the grip pressure in his left hand was 30 percent weaker than his right hand after the Masters, but therapy has reduced that gap to about 5 percent. But doctors also found a bone spur in the top of his left hand. If it gets too painful, he might face surgery.

``I've kind of written this year off,'' Oberholser said.

One thing was certain on Monday. He won't be playing the U.S. Open for the first time since 2004.