Sooner or later, twilight falls on every golfer’s career. The first sign of twilight in professional golf is when a former star player needs help to get into a tournament.
This week, two big names accepted sponsor’s exemptions to play in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
Did you ever think you’d see the day that Dallas native Justin Leonard, who hit the most famous putt in Ryder Cup history, would need an exemption to play at Colonial? He got one this week, his second of the year. He also received one to get into the field at Bay Hill, where he made the cut and finished tied for 59th.
Davis Love, this year’s Ryder Cup captain, also accepted a sponsor’s exemption to play at Colonial. It’s his first such invite this year.
David Duval, who leads the tour with eight exemptions this year, did not accept one for Colonial. Duval received one last week at the HP Byron Nelson Championship but withdrew after an opening-round 72. He has opened up a lead in the exemption standings (see below). Former Masters champion Mike Weir is second with six. Duval has made two cuts, but Weir, struggling with his game as he attempts to come back from elbow problems, has yet to make one.
Duval’s withdrawal was part of a second straight tournament of dismal performances by players who received sponsor’s exemptions.
Only one of the eight players who got a pass at the Nelson made the cut. That was Andres Gonzalez, who tied for 19th and won $78,780. Duval withdrew, and the other six missed the cut badly. Brett Wetterich, Kelly Kraft, Paul Haley, Travis Wadkins, Weir and Bryden MacPherson combined to miss the cut by a total of 57 shots, and their combined average score was 75.7 on the par-70 course.
The only tournaments this year where the sponsor’s exemption players fared worse was the Wells Fargo Championship, the last tour event to offer exemptions. Only one of the nine players given an exemption made the cut at Quail Hollow, a low mark that matched the Honda Classic.
Boo Weekley has made more cuts than anyone else who has received an exemption this year -- he’s the only player to cash three checks. Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa has a big lead on the exemption money; his $474,666 is more than double the $209,571 earned by Brian Davis. The fine showing by Gonzalez last week lifted him to seventh.
This year’s stats:
|Monday qualifiers money won|