What they found out was that the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, the organization that runs the Open Championship, had unilaterally and summarily taken away their exemption to play in the worlds oldest major.
When Pavin won the U.S. Open in 1995 he received, among other things, a 10-year exemption into the Open Championship. Same goes for Steve Jones when he won the U.S. Open in 1996 and Janzen when he won our national championship in 1998.
Recently, however, the R&A reduced that exemption to five years. All of a sudden Pavin, Jones and Janzen found themselves not exempt.
Worse, nobody from the R&A told them of the switch. Nor did they issue an apology when they learned the players already had started making travel plans. Typically, in situations like these, players with previous exemptions are grandfathered into events.
But the R&A chose to take away something it already had given. Pavin and Janzen were steamed. It was wrong to do it the way they did it, Janzen said.
Dennis Harrington, one of Pavins agents, said they briefly considered legal action that would have cited restraint of trade but decided against it.
Meanwhile, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and R&A Secretary Peter Dawson exchanged E-mails on the controversy. Sources say Finchem went to bat for the Americans but Dawson has refused to budge.
We did not get in touch with those players who had lost exemptions, Dawson was quoted as saying in the U.K.s Sporting Life. And we should have.
But still no apology and still no explanation why the players werent grandfathered. Janzen and Pavin both say they will try to qualify through other avenues. One way would be to be ranked among the top 50 in the world at the end of May. There is also a 36-hole international qualifier at Congressional near Washington D.C. later in this season.
The Sporting Life did report that Dawson had expressed regret that the R&A did not personally inform the players in question. But the whole affair has a kind of clumsy feel to it.
Once upon a time Americans shied away from playing in the Open Championship because of treatment like this. But the world got smaller and the spirit of international golf improved.
Now this has happened.
There had to have been a better way.
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