Sports Minute: Spieth, Fowler among those needing help for big fall events
By DOUG FERGUSONAP Golf Writer
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. (AP) — Jordan Spieth is only three years removed from winning the British Open and now has to ask for sponsor exemptions.
So does Brooks Koepka, who started this year at No. 1 in the world.
They were among several top players who failed to reach the top 70 in the FedEx Cup Playoffs and advance to the BMW Championship. It's not only about keeping alive hopes of reaching East Lake for the Tour Championship, and from there having a shot at the $15 million prize.
The FedEx Cup standings this year determine eligibility for the big-money, limited-field, no-cut events in the fall. And those become more attractive this year with the CJ Cup moving from South Korea to Shadow Creek in Las Vegas and the Zozo Championship in Japan headed to Sherwood Country Club in California.
That gives players a good two-week stretch leading to the Masters in November.
The fields for those events are top 60 available in the FedEx Cup. Phil Mickelson, who won his $9 million winner-take-all match against Tiger Woods at Shadow Creek two years ago, is at No. 75.
Koepka, who withdrew from the first playoff event, is at No. 104. Spieth failed to reach the BMW Championship for the first time and finished at No. 107. Justin Rose ended his season at No. 81, while Rickie Fowler was at No. 94.
They all need exemptions for the CJ Cup and Zozo Championship. Getting them shouldn't be a problem, of course, although players typically are expected to give something back in return, mainly time with sponsors.
Still, it will be rare for players of this caliber to ask for an exemption. And those exemptions will be in high demand.
The CJ Cup can offer as many as eight exemptions to PGA Tour players (three of those unrestricted). The Zozo Championship has only five spots (four for PGA Tour members, one unrestricted). Early indications are that most will be going. Jon Rahm said last week he would happily take a short flight from Arizona to play the CJ Cup.
Some of the other elite events, such as Memorial, Riviera and Bay Hill, exempt major champions from the last five years. The Asia events that are coming to America this year do not.
Louis Oosthuizen was aware of this when he spoke about what was at stake for him, in the 99th spot, at TPC Boston. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, he doesn't plan to return home to South Africa late in the year to play. He is looking for more starts on the fall schedule, and the CJ Cup and Zozo are the biggest.
“I need a good week here to get into next week to get into them,” Oosthuizen said.
END OF AN ERA
The European Tour is losing eight decades of experience with rules and tournament operations when John Paramor and Andy McFee retire in October as chief referees.
Paramor, 65, began as a rules official with the European Tour in April 1976, four months before a dashing young Spaniard named Seve Ballesteros won his first event. McFee, 62, joined the tour in September 1983.
Their final event together will be the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Oct. 8-11, the flagship event of the European Tour.
Their presence stretched far beyond Europe, as they were seen as key officials at the four majors, the World Golf Championships and everything else of importance around the globe.
“The word ‘legend’ is sometimes used too often in sport but in terms of golf, and the administration of the rules of our sport, it is the perfect word to describe both John Paramor and Andy McFee,” said Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the European Tour.
Among their contributions was 10 years ago when they made a DVD to educate players on basic rulings. If a player asked for a ruling he should know on his own (relief from a cart path, for example), the player had three tournaments to attend a seminar and watch the DVD before entering another event.
Daniel Berger was No. 102 in the world when the PGA Tour returned from the pandemic-caused shutdown. He won at Colonial, tied for second at a World Golf Championship and had his second third-place finish at the TPC Boston. Now he's up to No. 13 in the world, and wondering what he has to do to get into the Masters.
The short answer: Wait until April.
Augusta National, when it moved this year's Masters from April to November, said it would invite all those who would have qualified. It left no room — and has no room for those who didn't.
“I don't know if I could say I deserve a spot, but I feel like I'm playing well enough to earn a spot into the Masters,” Berger said at The Northern Trust. “I guess it's up to them.”
The club is all about the experience, which is why it has the smallest field of the majors. The field is at 96 players, extending an important streak that dates to 1966 of having fewer than 100 players.
Critical to that is daylight hours. By moving to November, it's roughly 10 hours, 30 minutes from sunrise to sunset. That's nearly 2 1/2 hours less daylight compared with April.
And it's only five month until the next Masters. Berger already is exempt for 2021.
Berger is not alone. Viktor Hovland, who won the Puerto Rico Open opposite the WGC-Mexico Championship, is at No. 31 in the world. He'll have to wait until next year, too.
The LPGA Tour has selected Renee Powell to receive the Ellen Griffin Rolex Award for major contributions in teaching golf.
Powell is one of six Black women to ever play on the LPGA Tour, though that became only part of her legacy. She founded in 2011 Clearview HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere), the only year-round women’s military rehabilitative golf program in the country. She also funded through grants five LPGA-USGA Girls Golf sites in her home state of Ohio.
She became the first woman of color to be elected to membership in the PGA of America, and she was among the first seven women to become an honorary member of the Royal & Ancient. The University of St. Andrews dedicated a residence hall to her, now called the Renee Powell Hall.
“What a great honor to be the recipient of such a prestigious award in honor of one of the greatest golf instructors, Ellen Griffin,” Powell said. “It was my fortune to have met her many years ago as a young golfer early in my days on the LPGA Tour. She taught the game with love, and I hope I embody that same quality when I instruct each pupil.”
Dustin Johnson is the fifth player to reach No. 1 in the world this year, the most since the ranking began in 1986. The others were Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas. ... Scottie Scheffler is closing in on a quirky feat that has never been done — the first PGA Tour rookie to make it to the Sentry Tournament of Champions without winning a tournament. Because of the pandemic that shut down golf for three months, the winners-only field at Kapalua has been expanded to include everyone making the Tour Championship. Scheffler is at No. 14. ... Webb Simpson has withdrawn from the BMW Championship, saying he has played four in a row and wants to be rested for the Tour Championship. Simpson is at No. 3 in the FedEx Cup.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Daniel Berger never shot worse than 67 at the TPC Boston and finished 12 shots behind Dustin Johnson.
“It's incredible that golf allows for these things to happen.” — Sophia Popov, ranked No. 304 in the world when she won the Women's British Open.
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