Wrapping up the year in sponsors' exemptions, looking ahead to a lean 2013

Wrapping up the year in sponsors’ exemptions, looking ahead to a lean 2013

David Duval received the most sponsors' exemptions of any player in 2012 -- 12 -- but made only two cuts.
Robert Beck/SI

Next year it's going to be tougher than ever to get a sponsor's exemption — a free pass into a PGA Tour event. The 2013 season will technically be shorter because several events played in the fall will officially kick off the 2014 schedule, so the tour has tweaked its rules on sponsors' exemptions to give players coming out of Q-School and the Web.com Tour more playing opportunities.

In most open events, the Q-schoolers and Web.com players will now be afforded four exemptions (up from two) while unrestricted exemptions (which can be given to anyone) will be reduced to two from four. The exemptions for Q-School and Web.com players will be awarded based on priority rankings.

There are several exceptions, most notably the Waste Management Phoenix Open, whose allotment of five exemptions will all go to Q-School and Web.com players.

At invitational events (like the Humana Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial), exemptions will be increased to four for the Q-School/Web.com group.

In short, it'll be that much tougher for an outsider or any non Q-school or Web.com player to get into tournament fields in 2013.

You might be surprised by how many players these rule changes could affect. I tracked sponsors' exemptions and Monday qualifying in 2012, and 374 tournament berths were doled out — 283 sponsors' exemptions and 91 Monday qualifications. Players who received sponsors' exemptions did a better job at finishing in the money (.389%) than the Monday qualifiers (.275%).

Here are some of this year's notable exemption highlights:

King of the free: Former British Open champion David Duval easily finished as the leading exemption-getter. He was granted 12 exemptions and made two cuts, earning just more than $26,000. Duval likely would have gotten a few more passes, but he was sidelined by a minor injury late in the summer.

Honey Boo-boo: The folk hero from the 2008 Ryder Cup, Boo Weekley, landed 10 exemptions, second only to Duval. Weekley made decent use of them. He made five cuts and won $317,557, including a fifth-place finish at the season-ending Disney event.

O (oh-fer) Canada: Injury-plagued former Masters champ Mike Weir was forced to go the exemption route this year, and it didn't go well. He failed to make a cut in nine appearances courtesy of exemptions. Weir's diminished status got him into four other events, where he also missed the cut. Overall, it was a dismal 0-for-13 season for him.

The big payday: The most lucrative finish by a golfer playing on an exemption was by Japan's Ryo Ishikawa. He received seven exemptions, made three cuts and finished second in Puerto Rico to snag $378,000. The second-biggest check won was by Naval Academy grad Billy Hurley, whose tie for fourth place at the AT&T National was worth $255,937. Ishikawa led all exemption recipients with $492,346 in total winnings.

Captain Reliable: Here's one title never previously attached to John Daly, who is no longer exempt on Tour but still doesn't bother going to Q-School. Daly scored eight exemptions, fewer than normal for him, but made the cut in six of the eight, including a pair of top-20 finishes at Memphis and Greenbrier. Daly finished 146th on the money list, managed a tie for fifth place at Reno (which went to a modified Stableford scoring system) and placed sixth in his one appearance on the Web.com tour. Honorable mention for consistent exemption play goes to Patrick Cantlay, who left UCLA early to turn pro and made five cuts in seven exemptions; veteran Joe Durant, who was 3-for-5; double-heart transplant recipient Erik Compton, who was 3-for-4; and former Ryder Cupper Chris Riley, who was 3-for-3.

Monday, Monday: Give Patrick Reed some kind of Iron Man Award. Nobody busted onto the PGA Tour like he did in 2012. Reed, a former all-American at Augusta State, successfully Monday-qualified six times, a remarkable feat. Reed won $166,061 in those appearances. His impressive bust-down-the-gate performance helped earn him four sponsors' exemptions, and he made the cut in one of those, tying for 11th at the Frys.com Open. Frank Lickliter and Jeff Curl made it through Monday qualifiers twice, the only players other than Reed to do it more than once.

The goose egg: The average tour event has eight exemptions to dole out. As a group, the players given exemptions by the Travelers Championship in Hartford performed the worst — not one made the cut! The Travelers was the only event in which no sponsor-exempt player finished in the money. At least the Honda and Wells Fargo managed to get one player to the weekend. The events where exempt players performed the best were Colonial (8 for 12, .750); TrueSouth (4 for 6, .667); McGladrey (2 for 3, .667); and Reno, Valero (5 for 8, .625).

Money won on exemptions
1 Ryo Ishikawa $492,346
2 Boo Weekley $317,557
3 Billy Hurley $268,237
4 John Daly $245,294
5 Luke Guthrie $242,672
6 Brian Davis $209,571
7 Harris English $173,450
8 Nicholas Colsaerts $162,067
9 Alejandro Canizares $129,962
10 Vaughn Taylor $106,875
11 Patrick Reed $106,000
12 Kyle Reifers $97,101
13 Erik Compton $92,915
14 Patrick Cantlay $91,725
15 Andres Gonzalez $78,780
16 Tadd Fujikawa $69,025
17 Chris Riley $54, 525
18 Chad Campbell $43,440
19 Jeff Quinney $43,310
20 David Hearn $40,776

Most exemptions-cuts made
12-2 David Duval
10-5 Boo Weekley
9-0 Mike Weir
8-6 John Daly
7-5 Patrick Cantlay
7-3 Ryo Ishikawa
7-2 Billy Hurley
6-3 John Peterson
6-2 Kelly Kraft
5-3 Joe Durant
4-3 Erik Compton
4-2 Fred Couples
4-2 Kyle Reifers
4-2 Jordan Spieth
4-1 K.T. Kim
4-1 Sam Saunders
4-1 Patrick Reed
4-0 Jason Gore
4-0 Notah Begay

Monday qualifiers winnings
1 Patrick Reed $166,061
2 Frank Lickliter $112,840
3 Jim Herman $105,000
4 Vaughn Taylor $79,800
5 Shawn Stefani $27,650
6 Derek Ernst $20,000
7 Dustin Morris $18,512
8 Derek Tolan $17,780
9 John Mallinger $14,916
10 Scott Langley $14,313