NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Next week’s John Deere will be without a past champion, but it gained one of the game’s promising young stars.
Sean O’Hair, hampered with a back injury at this week’s AT&T National, withdrew from the Deere to get treatment before the Open Championship. O’Hair won the 2005 Deere for his first PGA Tour victory.
Rickie Fowler will play in the Deere in a last-ditch effort to join O’Hair at St. Andrews. Fowler had an opportunity to lock up his spot at the AT&T National, but shot 6-over par and missed the cut.
O’Hair withdrew from the Deere on Thursday. O’Hair will have an MRI on Tuesday to find the cause – he believes he has a bulging disk – and undergo physical therapy. He said he feels pain while walking, and at address, but not during his swing. O’Hair hasn’t practiced after his rounds this week because of the injury.
“I’m hoping it’s going to hold up,” he said. O’Hair, an Aronimink member, was tied for 17th at 1-under 139 through two rounds.
Fowler entered the AT&T in third place on a mini-money list made up of earnings from PGA Tour events between The Players and AT&T. The top two finishers on that list – currently Justin Rose and Bubba Watson – earn British Open spots. Fowler is third, $362,625 behind Watson, who didn’t play this week.
Fowler will need to collect his fourth top-five finish of the season to have any hopes of making his first British Open appearance. At both the AT&T National and John Deere, each tournament’s top finisher (if in the top five) not already exempt for the Open gets a spot at St. Andrews.
“If I got in the Open, … I wasn’t going to play Deere because I would’ve played a lot up to the Open,” Fowler said. “Now we’ll go over to Deere and hopefully get a good week in.”
Eight of the top 13 players through 36 holes at the AT&T are not in the Open: Rose (who’ll likely earn a berth through the mini-money list), Jason Day, Charlie Wi, Jeff Overton, Charley Hoffman, Ryan Moore, John Mallinger and Kris Blanks.