PGA Tour in high demand for international players

By Associated PressFebruary 10, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. ' Joe Durant and Rich Beem have been writing to PGA Tour events for an exemption after losing their full status last year. They realize this is not the best time to get their hopes up.
Among those who got a tee time at Riviera next week are Jeev Milkha Singh of India, Oliver Wilson of England and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan. A few weeks later, Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain will be at the Honda Classic.
And later down the road at the Shell Houston Open?
With the way things are shaking out this year ' and this is one of those problems you want to have ' we could be heavy on international players for all of our exemptions, tournament director Steve Timms said Tuesday.
This is not a case of American jobs being taken away.
Nearly every tournament is required to give four of its eight sponsor exemptions to PGA Tour members or those who earned a card last year through Q-school or the Nationwide Tour and are low in the pecking order. Besides, players like Durant and Beem would not be in a position of asking if they had performed better last year. They know that.
But it is another example of the changing landscape in golf and on the PGA Tour.
Ten years ago, 33 Americans were among the top 50 in the world ranking. Today there are 13 Americans in the top 50.
Since 1983, tournaments have set aside two spots for a foreign exemption designated by the commissioner. There were 21 foreign-born PGA Tour members that year, compared with 70 active international players from 19 countries who are members this year.
Are the commissioners foreign exemptions still necessary in this era of global golf?
Probably not.
Then again, the Tour typically is prudent with those exemptions and encourages tournaments to use their four unrestricted exemptions on international players. If the foreign exemptions are not used, those spots are put back in the pot for PGA Tour members.
I can tell you that we have given out half the number of foreign exemptions that we gave out five or six years ago, said Andy Pazder, the tours senior vice president of competition.
He estimated that less than one-third of all foreign exemptions are used during the year.
The international influx over the next month is more a product of having all the World Golf Championships and three of the four major championships in the United States.
When the Accenture Match Play Championship gets under way on Feb. 25, odds are at least 20 players in the 64-man field will not be members of the PGA Tour.
Instead of flying halfway around the world to Arizona for what could be just one round, most of them would like to arrive a week early and compete in a regular tournament ' the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, in this case.
And for the last decade, Northern Trust tournament director Tom Pulchinski has been a popular man.
His tournament has preceded Match Play every year since 1999, except the year Match Play went to Australia. Pulchinski gets more requests from overseas than he has spots available.
We try to get the best players in the world, he said.
He used his unrestricted exemptions on Singh, Wilson and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland (the fourth spot is now the Charlie Sifford Exemption and used for a minority, this year being Vincent Johnson). The two foreign exemptions from the commissioners office went to Ishikawa, the 17-year-old phenom, and Soren Hansen.
For those baffled that Rory McIlroy at No. 15 in the world did not get a spot, the 19-year-old from Northern Ireland only two weeks ago won in Dubai and was simply not ranked high enough when Pulchinski had to make his selections.
The Honda Classic, meanwhile, is working under new dynamics this year.
It has led off the Florida Swing the last two years, with the WGC event in Doral at the end of March. This year, however, the Honda Classic has been squeezed between two World Golf Championships. International players probably dont want to crisscross the ocean for two WGC events that are three weeks apart.
We knew going in that moving in front of Doral, we would be heavy with international requests, tournament director Ken Kennerly said. We made a strategic decision to use as many exemptions as we could for international players. Then we reached out to the PGA Tour.
The Honda Classic one had one commissioners foreign exemptions in 2008. This year, it used them on McIlroy and Jimenez, while two of its unrestricted picks went to Clarke and Shingo Katayama of Japan (the other two free picks were used on Erik Compton, the double heart transplant player from south Florida, and Hawaii teen Tadd Fujikawa).
When the Shell Houston Open moved in 2007 to the week before the Masters, Timms knew what to expect.
In addition to its usual list of exemptions, Houston now has four special exemptions set aside for up to four international players in the top 100 of the world ranking who are playing in the Masters.
Among the possibilities: McIlroy, Singh, Lee Westwood, Alvaro Quiros, Martin Kaymer, Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson. The latter two are in the top 10 in the world ranking, making them tough to ignore.
Its a challenge to accommodate everyone, Timms said.

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  • South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

    By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

    South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

    Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

    Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

    Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

    So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

    Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

    The fourball results:

    LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

    LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

    LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

    KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

    LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

    LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

    NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.


    Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

    By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

    In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

    Made Cut

    The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

    Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

    “I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

    Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

    Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

    This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

    Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

    Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

    The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

    Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

    Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

    The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

    First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

    “You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

    A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

    “The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

    For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

    Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

    “I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

    Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

    “Oh, yeah,” he told “Way by.”

    Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

    Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

    Missed Cut

    Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

    Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

    “That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

    Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

    While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

    Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

    Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

    An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.

    Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:

    Original story:

    Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

    President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

    Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

    Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

    By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

    HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

    Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

    ''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

    Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

    Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

    Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

    ''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

    Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

    Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

    ''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''