(AP) — Sean O’Hair made a bold bid to win The Players Championship when he went after the flag on the island-green 17th at Sawgrass, went into the water and wound up making a quadruple-bogey 7. His tumble to 12th cost him $747,000 and perhaps a shot at the U.S. Open.
Had he finished second — no one else had a chance to catch Phil Mickelson — O’Hair would have moved up to No. 47 in the world and likely would have stayed in the top 50 to avoid U.S. Open qualifying. Instead, he is No. 79 and faces 36 holes of qualifying after the Memorial if he wants an Oakmont tee time.
Other players have a few more chances.
This week is a major cutoff for being exempt from qualifying. The U.S. Open will take the top 50 in the world ranking, along with the top 10 from the PGA Tour money list and the top two in Europe.
A couple of PGA Tour winners are on the bubble.
Sony Open champion Paul Goydos is No. 49 and can help himself immensely with a good week at Colonial. Right behind is Tim Clark (50) and Hilton Head winner Boo Weekley (52). Lucas Glover is No. 51, but he already is in the U.S. Open from finishing in the top 30 of last year’s money list.
Angel Cabrera is No. 53 and playing the BMW Championship at Wentworth, where he won two years ago. The European Tour event has far more ranking points available than Colonial this week.
Tampa winner Mark Calcavecchia is No. 55 and playing Colonial, although he might have a better chance with money. He’s only $78,358 out of the top 10, which he could make up with at least a top-20 finish.
Return of Annika: Annika Sorenstam plans to return to the LPGA Tour next week after recovering from a ruptured disk in her neck and a bulging disk in her back. It will be her first competitive round in two months, and the timing couldn’t be better since she is the host of the Ginn Tribute in South Carolina.
“Annika’s rehabilitation has progressed well, and she looks forward to resuming competitive play,” Mark Steinberg, her agent at IMG, said in a statement Tuesday.
Sorenstam has not played since she tied for 30th in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first LPGA major of the year. She is 25th on the LPGA money list and has lost her No. 1 ranking to Lorena Ochoa.
The $2.6 million tournament will be held at RiverTowne Country Club in Charleston and features a strong field that includes Ochoa, Nabisco winner Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome, Juli Inkster and Michelle Wie, making her first start of the LPGA season.
Validation: To suggest Zach Johnson reached the next level with his victory in Atlanta might be a stretch considering it was the second-weakest field on the PGA Tour this year behind New Orleans.
But he was solid down the stretch, making birdie twice on the 18th hole at Sugarloaf to beat Ryudi Imada in a playoff. And it never hurts for a player to back up his first major championship with another victory, especially one so soon.
“As far as validation, I don’t know,” Johnson said. “One lip-out here, one more bounce the other way there, I may not be sitting here. There’s always some fortuitous breaks there. I just feel very honored.”
Johnson joined a short list of players since 1992 who won again within three starts of capturing their first major — Davis Love III and David Toms each won in their third tournament, while Retief Goosen won the Scottish Open in his second start after winning the 2001 U.S. Open. Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh each won their next start after their first major, although Woods took nearly a month off.
Life Support: Val Skinner’s annual golf charity for breast cancer research raised $500,000, bringing the total to more than $4 million.
Skinner’s foundation created the event called “LIFE” — LPGA pros In the Fight to Eradicate breast cancer — eight years ago, and it continues to be one of golf’s best-supported charity events. It was held Monday at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J., and featured 29 players, including Lorena Ochoa, Beth Daniel, Julie Inkster, Nancy Lopez, Karrie Webb and Morgan Pressel.
“This year’s event has been our strongest yet,” Skinner said. “You could literally feel the powerful energy that is created when we all come together collectively with a passionate purpose.”
Among those honored was Pressel, the youngest player to win an LPGA major. Her mother died of breast cancer four years ago.
Road to Recovery: Olin Browne had to sit out the first four months of the season recovering from a partial ligament tear in his right hand, and his patience was rewarded last week in Atlanta. Browne closed with a bogey-free 66 to tie for ninth in only his second tournament since October.
“I did what the doctors told me. I waited until it could function a little bit,” Browne said.
He made his ’07 debut the week before at The Players Championship, and given his rust, Browne said it was “like taking a knife to a gunfight.” He went 81-75 to miss the cut. But he was inspired by playing bogey-free in the first round on the TPC at Sugarloaf and only shooting 74 in a third round void of bogeys.
“I put it through the rigors and had three really nice rounds,” he said. “I’m hoping to build on that.”
Divots: Michelle Wie is scheduled to play her first LPGA Tour event of the year next week at the Ginn Tribute in South Carolina, meaning she will miss her high school graduation. … Morgan Pressel will appear at several Anheuser-Busch parks over the next year as a spokeswoman for the “Champions” program, a campaign designed to inspire young women to excel in sports and studies. … Hee-Won Han will not defend her title in the LPGA Corning Classic this week. Han is pregnant with her first child and has not played since the Kraft Nabisco Championship at the end of April. … Augusta National has distributed $3.4 million to charities from the Masters, raising its total contribution to more than $32 million over the last 10 years.
Stat of the Week: The BMW Championship on the European Tour has five of the top 10 players in the world ranking. Colonial on the PGA Tour has one of the top 10.
Final Word: “I think I’m going to have to prove myself a little more before he considers me.” — PGA Tour rookie Stephen Marino, who played the first two rounds at the AT&T Classic with Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger.