Landing an Exemption

By Rex HoggardMarch 4, 2010, 3:19 am

It was a three-page, handwritten letter that did it for Tim Herron. Not a playing career that spans two decades or four PGA Tour titles or one of the most endearing nicknames in the game.

For Manuel Villegas, brother of Tour star Camilo, it was a simple phone call that landed him one of the toughest tickets in sports. Whatever the tonic, one of the most unscientific and exhausting aspects of golf, at least for tournaments directors, almost always boils down to a personal touch.

“John Daly called me in October and said, ‘I’m available for whatever you need me to do,’” Puerto Rico Open tournament director Sidney Wolf said.

It’s little surprise that JD was granted a sponsor exemption into the Puerto Rico event. He’s a “name” player that puts butts in bleachers and has no problem showing a little appreciation, and this year more than any tournament directors want to feel it.

The art of doling out exemptions has always been an inexact science. As a general rule, former champions at a particular event get a close look – Todd Hamilton’s invite this week at the Honda Classic would qualify – and down-on-their-luck former major champions are low-hanging fruit. Call it the John Daly exemption.

“It’s so hard this year because there are so many names that don’t have priority,” said Ken Kennerly, the executive director of the Honda Classic and a long-time player manager on Tour. “Some of my own clients that don’t have exemptions didn’t get in. It’s tough.”

In many ways sponsor exemptions are occupational hazards for tournament directors, even more so than a bear economy or a tee sheet that is bear of the names Tiger or Phil, because it’s never easy to shoehorn the list of players who deserve an exemption into the narrow confines of the half-dozen available exemptions.

That truth is compounded this year because of all the established players without full status, including headliners David Duval, Rocco Mediate, Chris DiMarco and Hamilton.

For this year’s Puerto Rico Open, which will be played opposite next week’s WGC-CA Championship, Wolf said he received over 40 letters, e-mails or phone calls looking for a spot in his field. That’s more than double what he normally gets.

“We never got anything like that before,” Wolf said. “Next year the most creative request will get an exemption. We’ll have a contest.”

In many ways the art of landing a sponsor exemption has already become a contest.

One player produced a 5-minute video for a spot in the Quail Hollow Championship a few years ago explaining how he would take the time to teach the other competitors the proper way to be southern, like how to wear a camouflaged hat or eat BBQ, while others offer to hold clinics and entertain sponsors.

Kennerly, uniquely positioned to see the issue from both sides, said he has stressed to his clients for years the need to engage tournament directors. “I spoke to the Q-School and Nationwide (Tour) class, and said, ‘Guys, just take the time to reach out to these tournaments.’”

It’s a lesson, however, that some young players are having a hard time learning. Wolf recalls a player who sent a form letter asking for an exemption last year and he called the player’s manager and told him his man needed to do better.

“The player called me, which was great. But then this year I get another form letter from the kid,” Wolf sighs.

Gerald Goodman, the tournament director for the Transitions Championship which will be played later this month near Tampa, Fla., said he received over 100 requests this year, and points out that the exemptions he’s already given out – Duval, Mediate, DiMarco and Daly – all sent hand-written letters and followed up with a phone call.

Of course, personal communication goes both ways. For every one exemption a tournament doles out a tournament director has to tell a dozen or so other players that they’re out. Never an easy “Dr. John” moment.

“It’s extremely hard to call a player and tell them there is no spot for them,” Goodman said. “I try to go down the method of why we made the decision. I face the music. I man up and I think they appreciate that. They just want to be talked to.”

Every job has a “cringe moment,” and sponsor exemptions are a tournament directors cold chill, so much so one director once mused, “I’d give up all my exemptions for one right of refusal. Him? Oh no, he can’t play here.”

No such luck, but maybe if he wrote a hand-written letter to commissioner Tim Finchem the Tour would consider it.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.