LA JOLLA, Calif. - West Chester's Sean O'Hair, the only Philadelphia-area player in the U.S. Open field, was forced to withdraw yesterday because of a pulled chest muscle.

"Obviously, you don't want to miss a major," he said over the phone. "It could have happened the week before the Screen-Door Open. That's not the way it works.

"I'm pretty sore. I just can't put any effort into hitting a shot."

The 25-year-old suffered the injury in a one-car accident last Thursday morning as he was leaving his housing complex to go work out with his trainer.

O'Hair, who was alone, lost control in wet road conditions and the vehicle slid into a pole.

As a precaution he was taken to a hospital, where X-rays were negative. But the opening of an air bag left him with discomfort in his chest.

He flew out here the next morning, and was even able to hit some balls by Tuesday. Yet it never got to the point where he felt capable of competing.

He flew home yesterday afternoon, and hopes to rest and be ready to tee it up again in his next scheduled event, Tiger Woods' AT&T National in Washington on July 2-6.

"I felt like I was ready to go," O'Hair lamented. "Fortunately it was nothing more serious. It's just a matter of letting it heal. There's really not much more I can do than that. Just get healthy."

England's Gary Wolstenholme took O'Hair's place in the field.

In his first Open, in 2006 at Winged Foot, O'Hair finished tied for 26th. Last June at Oakmont he missed the cut.

He's currently ranked 35th in the world. He tied for 14th in the Masters, a month after winning his second career tournament. If he remains in the top 50 he will be eligible for the British Open, where he's had two top 15s in three trips, and the PGA, where he finished 12th 2 years ago. And there's always the possibility he could make a run at a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "But you do say, 'Why now?' But thank God everything's [still] where it needs to be."

Tap-in

Rory Sabbatini

has helped raise more than $1 million for U.S. military-related causes. This January he began wearing shirts made by Hollas, one of Canada's top golf apparel brands. The parent company, Second Skin, is donating 1,000 authentic U.S. military-licensed camouflage shirts to service members, in honor of his efforts. They will be replicas of the shirts Sabbatini is wearing at the U.S. Open. When he was in San Diego in January for the Buick Open, Sabbatini gave $170,000 to the United Through Reading Military Program, which helps keep families connected while separated during long deployments to war-zone areas. *