As Michael Putnam can attest, sometimes "fully exempt" isn't quite what it seems on the PGA Tour.
Putnam emerged as the top money winner during the 2013 regular season on the Web.com Tour, and as a result received "fully exempt" status for the 2013-14 PGA Tour season. His travel plans for the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week, though, remain in flux as Putnam is listed as first alternate as of Monday morning after wrapping up a T-37 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Likewise, a top-10 finish usually yields a spot in the next open event, but the logjam of players that finished T-10 or better Sunday in San Diego will now simply line up behind Putnam on the alternate list. That group includes Ryo Ishikawa, who tied for seventh and is now listed as second alternate to tee it up at TPC Scottsdale, and Brad Fritsch, who knew his fate shortly after notching a top-10 finish at Torrey Pines for the second year in a row:
Just an FYI - the top ten category is currently NOT in the field next week in Phoenix. So I'm about 4th or 5th alternate. #notautomatic— Brad Fritsch (@BradFritsch) January 27, 2014
The issues causing the bottleneck in this week's field are two-fold. First, while 156 participants teed it up last week at Torrey Pines, only 132 spots are available this week at the "Greatest show on turf." To compound things, an unusually high number of players are already in the Phoenix field based on major medical exemptions - a category that ranks above Putnam (as top Web.com Tour money winner) and those that finished in the top 10 at the previous event.
The list of 12 players utilizing one of their major medical starts this week includes two-time Waste Management winner J.B. Holmes, former U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen and Spencer Levin, who squandered a six-shot lead in Phoenix during the final round in 2012.
A silver lining exists for those who cracked the top 10 at Torrey Pines: should they remain on the outside looking in this week, their status would carry over in order to get them into the next eligible event, which would be the Northern Trust Open in two weeks.