ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – J.J. Henry struggled last season on the PGA Tour with just a single top-10 finish in 28 starts. He failed to qualify for the playoffs and secure his membership for the 2018-19 season.
At 43 years old, the veteran’s options for the new season were limited until the Tour approved a new one-time exemption for players like Henry. In his Tour career, which began with the 2001 season, Henry has made 328 cuts that qualified him for the exemption.
“For a guy who arguably played 20 straight years out here and for whatever reason things change, whether personal, your body, your game just isn’t there and it’s like let’s take care of the guys who have supported the Tour,” Henry said on Tuesday at the RSM Classic. “You make 300 cuts that’s saying something out here. I feel it’s earned.”
The exemption is similar to those granted to players who rank either inside the top 25 or top 50 in career earnings – with a slight difference. Players using the exemption begin the season just behind those playing out of the Web.com Tour category, although they will be included with those players in that category’s reshuffle, and they will not be allowed to use a top-50 career earnings exemption in the future.
Henry explained officials added the “cuts” category in response to dramatically increased purses in recent years that made the career earnings category out of reach.
“The money has gotten to a good situation where when I first got out here we were playing for probably half of what we are now, maybe less,” Henry said. “The career money guys from my era have gotten passed by. In order to give guys like me a chance they considered 500 starts is big thing, but if you’ve made 300 cuts you’ve actually kind of earned it.”
Players using the exemption had to have played at least 15 events in the previous season to qualify.