Notes: Bay Hill, Memorial to award 3-year exemptions

By Doug FergusonJune 3, 2014, 9:25 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – The PGA Tour is honoring two of its most important players - Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus - by making their tournaments a little more meaningful in what has become a crowded golf schedule.

In a resolution approved at the last policy board meeting, winners of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the Memorial will receive a three-year exemption, instead of the two-year exemption from other PGA Tour events.

The tour also is discussing whether to allow the prize money at their events to be the highest this side of a major, World Golf Championship or The Players Championship.

Palmer and Nicklaus, along with a half-century of star power in golf, led the move in the late 1960s to break away from the PGA of America and form what is now the PGA Tour. Palmer bought Bay Hill in the late 1970s, and it has become a staple on the Florida swing. Nicklaus started his tournament at Muirfield Village in 1976.

In some respects, the tour is acknowledging how difficult it is for tournaments to distinguish themselves. In the last 15 years, the PGA Tour has added four WGCs and three FedEx Cup playoff events to the schedule.

''This was more our desire to recognize two iconic figures who started and operate two world-class tournaments that for decades were lynch pins on our schedule,'' said Andy Pazder, the tour's chief of operations. ''We wanted to make sure their place on the tour calendar, as far as being a high-caliber, world-class event, was secure for well into the future.''

It was unlikely the Byron Nelson Championship would get the same treatment. That event was around for two decades in Dallas until Nelson's name was attached to it.

ALLRED IS ALRIGHT: What started with one good round has taken Jason Allred places he never imagined.

He shot 66 to qualify for the Northern Trust Open, and then parlayed that into a 64 in the second round at Riviera that carried him to a tie for third and more money ($388,600) than the 34-year-old had made in his entire PGA Tour career.

Allred made the most of his most recent chance. He was given a sponsor's exemption to the Memorial, shot 68 in the second round to make the cut and then closed with a 66 to tie for 15th and pick up another six-figure check.

''It's been such a fun journey the last couple of months,'' Allred said. ''If you sat me down at the start of the year and said, 'This is what's going to happen,' on the one hand I would have thought you were crazy. But at the same time, all along I've believed in my ability to do this. The thing is, I'm learning to believe in it more, which is fun.''

Allred played only two full years on the PGA Tour out of Pepperdine, the last time in 2008. Why it took him until 34 to figure it out can be explained in one word - golf.

This is not a guy who takes these chances for granted.

He still remembers where he was when tournament director Dan Sullivan called him on the Saturday night before the Memorial to offer him the spot. And he was at Muirfield Village deep into every evening during the tournament, enjoying the moment with his family. His third child was born a week after his tie for third at Riviera.

His letters requesting an exemption are not run of the mill.

''He wrote a nice, compelling, personal letter to the exemption committee,'' Sullivan said. ''And that stuck with them.''

Allred said he sent an email that included links to stories about his week at Riviera, along with photos of his family to give a glimpse of his life off the golf course, and then he followed that with a handwritten note.

''Just try to let them know how much I love this game,'' Allred said. ''We try to be a blessing to others, to engage the fans and really enjoy it.''

The season is getting short. There are only six tournaments remaining where Allred can hope for an exemption. He is the equivalent of 145th in the FedEx Cup standings. If he could get equal points to No. 125 before the playoffs, he would have his tour card. If nothing else, he is assured a spot in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals.

''That is such a bonus,'' Allred said. ''I feel like if you're playing well in four tournaments, you'll have a chance.''

ANOTHER U.S. OPEN: Few players are as experienced at U.S. Open qualifying than Kevin Sutherland. The 49-year-old from Sacramento, California, qualified for the eighth time in the U.S. Open (he was exempt twice), even though he hasn't played a PGA Tour event since last August.

''You play golf, and when you get done, you see where you are,'' Sutherland said Tuesday after qualifying in San Francisco.

Sutherland has played sparingly since a neck injury. A former World Golf Championship winner (Match Play), he has asked for only one exemption in his career, at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-am. He didn't get it. Instead, Sutherland drove down to Monterey as the sixth alternate and played a practice round at Spyglass Hill with longtime friend Paul Goydos.

Oddly enough, the first exemption he received was a few weeks ago from the USGA - to the U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree. Sutherland turns 50 on July 4. He would have qualified on his own through career money, except the cutoff for the exemption was before he turned 50. The USGA asked him to write a letter asking for an exemption.

''I think they gave it more because it was a technicality than it was me,'' Sutherland said.

PADRAIG'S ROLE: Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, longtime friends and World Cup partners for Ireland, had dinner in McGinley's home in London recently and covered just about every subject but one - the Ryder Cup.

McGinley is Europe's captain for the September matches in Scotland. Harrington has fallen out of the world 200 and last played in the Ryder Cup in 2010 as a captain's pick. He would seem to be an ideal vice captain.

''He'd never bring it up. I'd never bring it up,'' Harrington told Greg Allen of RTE radio in Ireland. ''Anyway, I would rather him be completely neutral when it comes to something like that.''

Harrington, however, left no doubt he'd take the job.

''I hope to be a Ryder Cup captain myself someday, and I see being a vice captain as part of the learning curve for that,'' he said.

DIVOTS: Patrick Rodgers is trying to make the most with whatever starts he can get on the PGA Tour. That's why he turned down an exemption into 36-hole sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, because he would have had to play the U.S. Open as a pro, and the Stanford star needs as much money (FedEx Cup points) as possible. Alas, the strategy didn't work when Rodgers didn't make it out of local qualifying. He makes his pro debut at the Travelers Championship a week after the U.S. Open. ... Pinehurst Resort & Country Club has acquired National Golf Club, which was designed by Jack Nicklaus and first opened in 1989. It will be renamed Pinehurst No. 9 and will be available to resort guests in July. ... Nick Faldo plans to play the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen a week before the British Open at Royal Liverpool. ... The BMW Championship will return to Conway Farms north of Chicago in 2015.

STAT OF THE WEEK: In his last three PGA Tour events, Rory McIlroy is a combined 12 over par in the second round, and 35 under in the other three rounds.

FINAL WORD: ''I don't think age was a factor. I think desire was a factor.'' - Jack Nicklaus, going five years without a major from 41 until 46.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.