Beware Journeyman Oppenheim

Rob Oppenheim Defies Journeyman Label to Lead Wyndham

Scoring is good in Greensboro, North Carolina, as the leaderboard goes deeper and deeper into under-par territory. For Rob Oppenheim, however, it rained birdies and eagles in the third round, resulting in a missed putt for a 62 – nice score if you can manage it. Doesn’t sound like a journeyman to me.

Here is the basic story of Rob Oppenheim.  From Andover, Massachusetts, he is now forty years of age. Presently living in Orlando. After high school, he attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he also played basketball and baseball. In 1999, he finished in the top twenty at Pebble Beach for the U.S. Amateur. Oppenheim was named Player of the Year for the Cleveland Tour, and on the 2005 Canadian Tour, finished second for the Order of Merit. He won the New Hampshire Open in 2005 and 2009, the Massachusetts Open and Maine Open in 2007, with wins on other tours. On  the Web Tour in 2010, he got his PGA card by finishing in 25th place, which means barely. Some of 2019 was spent on the Korn Ferry Tour, and he was featured by Golf Channel on “Quest for the Card.”

This speaks to me of someone who persisted to get on the PGA Tour, and amassed enough good regional credentials to be anticipated as a good player in the big leagues. He was never to be the “anointed one,” but made up for it in staying power. Once on the PGA, however, things looked a little different. Oppenheim’s FedEx ranking is #145. As a pro since 2002, there have been zero PGA wins, zero International wins, and zero wins anywhere else. He has managed 37 cuts out of 76 events, and has made the top ten three times. And yet he makes a living out of professional golf as a touring player, around $100,000 per year if I’ve calculated it right. I guess that’s what most people mean by ‘journeyman.’

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But wait! Suddenly, Oppenheim wakes up, leads a tournament and shoots a 62, not to mention rounds one and two. After much thought, I am beginning to wonder if we haven’t inaccurately defined the term of ‘journeyman.’ I’ve always had a passion for that unexpected guy who comes out of nowhere to win tournaments. My favorite was Dick Mayer, who chipped in from thirty yards down the fairway at the Zurich Open while the second and third members of his three-way playoff were on the green deciding which one of them would take the tournament. He took it away from both of them.

Mayer wasn’t quite the same example as Oppenheim. He had a ‘choker’ reputation’ until winning the U.S. Open in ’57. It was more a case of “don’t let the old man win the tournament over the young guns,” which he turned upside down with such aplomb.

So, what is a journeyman  then? Unfortunately, the mainstream impression is that he is a good golfer who just doesn’t play well enough to win – and never or seldom does. That’s the glass half-empty definition. The other side is that he is a golfer who plays good golf, and emerges once in a while in his best rounds or weekends. In short, between the two theories, he is not often a man of extremes. But naysayers beware. This journeyman is perfectly capable of winning a tournament after racking up birdies by the barrel with an eagle or two, gold or bald, take your pick.

Who knows what will happen on Sunday? Oppenheim may fade or do the low 60s thing again, but he doesn’t look particularly anxious. He isn’t by first appearance a distance guy, but has a hot wedge and putter. No, it isn’t a weak field – at least Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed and a few others would take exception to that.

It seems likely that after tomorrow, taking that nice annual $100,000 home to the family is going to add a hefty bonus from Oppenheim’s hot August weekend. Sometimes I wish I could be that sort of journeyman.

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